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By Erik Rasmussen
  • M5 of 2018
    Kings Reach - Local Traffic Control - Cancellation of Helicopter Filming Operations
  • M4 of 2018
    Bow Creek - Castle Wharf & Hercules Wharf - Construction of a Flood Defence Wall & Tidal Terrace

CKC hosts Adventurer & Sea Kayaker Freya Hoffmeister Mon 5 Feb 2018 eve, Chiswick, London

We have organised a great opportunity to listen to a incredible international paddler, Freya Hoffmeister… an amazing Woman – on Mon 5th Feb evening, short walk from Turnham Green tube station.

Freya’s London talk about the 1st Kayak Circumnavigation of South America…. an Amazing 27,000Km!!! will be the 1st event of her UK & Ireland Talking Tour.
It will be a great evening, that will not only interest Sea Kayakers but anyone wanting to hear about expeditions, adventures and the outdoors!

Please Share with anyone/clubs you think will be interested:

https://www.facebook.com/events/856802564504249/?notif_t=plan_user_joined&notif_id=1515451851553127

The Eventbrite Link for Tickets is:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/think-bigger-the-first-circumnavigation-of-south-america-tickets-41972256148

Freya Hoffmeister has circumnavigated Iceland, New Zealand South, Ireland, Australia and South America.

She is now on her way around North America, and is happy to share her exciting paddle stories around her second continent, lovingly titled the “Southern Island” – South America!

This circumnavigation was a huge undertaking, roughly 27000 km, with Freya averaging around 45km per day on the water over the 44 months of the expedition.  Visit http://freyahoffmeister.com/events/ for a flavour!

Freya has been awarded the “World Paddle Award”, became the “European Adventurer of the Year! and the “National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year”.

The evenings presentation will start @ 7pm and is spread over three hours and shall include a thirty minute refreshment break, Q&A session and a book signing at the end for those who may wish to read more about her adventures.

Please come early and take the opportunity to enjoy the tasty food and refreshments that are on offer in this lovely Fullers Pub. http://www.georgeiv.co.uk/ Many thanks to George IV and Fullers Brewery for supporting this event.

Please purchase your tickets through Eventbrite here – to secure your place and enable us to set up the room appropriately https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/think-bigger-the-first-circumnavigation-of-south-america-tickets-41972256148

Please spread the word for what will be a great & unique evening =:)

14-17 July Kayaking from Dartmouth

Thirteen CKCers had an excellent long weekend on the 14/15/16/17 July at Dartmouth.

The trip was significantly helped by members of the Dartmouth canoe club, (more properly the Yacht club as they are a section of that). So we were able to paddle from their base.
We were all camping, most of us at a site near Slapton sands, a shortish drive away. Two members of the DYC Timothy and Jonathan came out to the camp on the Friday evening to introduce themselves, and suggest a plan for the weekend, based on weather and tides. To save those gradually arriving from long journey from London from starving Tim from CKC got us take aways from Tor Cross pub. =:)

Saturday 15 July: Drove in convoy to the base, which turned out to be an outdoor boat park in Dartmouth, that had all the necessary amenities, toilets, water tap, and a nearby cafe, and all just over the road from the slipway.

Janice christened her new boat, and she had even brought champagne for us all to celebrate. =:)

CKC & Floyd & host Tim M DYC

Jonathan from DYC led us down to the mouth of the river treating us en-route to his extensive knowledge of local history, we then turned right(west)and then onto the sea proper. We continued paddling enjoying some quite good swell until we reached a shingle beach called Blackpool sands. We landed there and spent an indeterminate amount of time having lunch, chilling, some swimming, climbing the rocks, going to the cafe and talking to the RNLI volunteers.

Then paddling back, crossing the mouth of the river and going up the east bank (Kingswear), past all the yacht mariners and back over the river to the slipway.

We then went directly to the pub in Tor Cross, and all ate well!

Sunday – we reconvened at the boat park, and this time headed out of the estuary in 2 groups and then turned east. The timing of our paddle coincided with the tidal range that enabled exploring a cave & going through a tunnel. One group did extensive rock hopping along almost any rock they could find, and the other group going more leisurely enjoying photographing seals and birds which were on the rocky outcrops.

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Sunday – we managed to play some frisbee, as well as return to what had became our favourite pub!

Monday – we reconvened as a smaller group at the boat park and this time headed up the estuary. Wonderfully we passed the train line just as the steam train was going past. We paddled past Agatha Christie’s Greenway property which has a boat landing and up to Stoke Gabriel.  Philippa tried out her plastic-cardboard folding kayak. Over lunch some of us tried out her kayak, others practised some skills in warm sunshine. Philippa’s kayak is significantly slower than the other sea kayaks & we enjoyed seeing if we could enable her to kayak with slightly less effort by riding on the wake of an advance & 2 side boats by putting her as the fourth boat at the back of a diamond formation. We landed mid afternoon in time to drive back to London & hopefully miss the worst of the rush hour.

Thanks are due to Dartmouth club members for their kind welcome as well as practical advice and support.
Thanks to Richard Hilson for contributing to this blog.

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Eastbourne to Barcombe Mills – 15-16 April 2017

Easter Saturday 15 April 2017 – Alex, Liza, Philippe and Fiona met just east of the Wish Tower in Eastbourne to go around Beachy Head to Cuckmere Haven, then Newhaven and then up through River Ouse to Barcombe Mills– as part of the London to Lands’ End paddling project!

Alex & Liza had already dropped cars off at Barcombe mills which is where we intended to land on Sunday. We had been watching the winds in the run up to Saturday, with the Met Office issuing strong wind warnings for the area but a forecast 24hr window of winds F3-4 gave us our opportunity. However, the possibility of a force 5 or more remained! We could expect a swell of 2-4ft from SW forecast for the 2 days. High tide at Eastbourne and Newhaven was ~3pm.

After photos of us with L2LE mascot Skeg we set off bang on schedule at 2pm.

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(Alex handled very sensitively super keen interest of a tourist who wanted come with us just as we were launching!) We were aiming to get to Beachy Head, just as the flow from the east started. Protected from the wind by the cliffs, the sea was calm up to Beachy Head. At Beachy Head there are prominent ledges marked with “overfalls” on charts. This can result in the sea being a bit choppy, especially when there is wind against a fast tide flowing through a constrained space. So the trip timings were planned around when it was most suitable to go past Beachy Head.

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When we got to Beachy Head we had spectacular white soaring cliffs above us, and some lumpy water ahead of us, with breaking waves further out to sea. First was Head Ledge, which had the “lumpiest” water and we paddled together as a close group.  We then got used to the choppy water with Liza and I paddling steadily. Our group photographers captured the stunning views and then would catch up us.

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This gave Liza and I the opportunity to circumnavigate anti-clockwise the lighthouse at the bottom of Beachy Head. It was noticeably more unnerving having swell and wind behind us going round the lighthouse than when going into the wind.

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We then carried on to Cuckmere Haven paddling underneath the brilliant white of the Seven Sisters cliffs, with sea birds and walkers spotted above us! On the way to Cuckmere we heard over the radio the inshore forecast from the coast guard, which included a possible F6 “later” on Sunday.

At Cuckmere we landed ~ 5.15pm on the beach where there were many tourists, majority from the Far East. (We are not quite sure how this spot got onto their tourist itinerary!) We had paddled 7 nautical miles. We had a discussion about whether we would have a snack and then push on for Newhaven that night because of the stronger winds forecast, or stick with the original plan to camp at Cuckmere and then continue to Newhaven on Sunday. With a more detailed forecast, which didn’t anticipate the wind picking up until the following afternoon, we decided to camp as we were tired and Cuckmere was probably a much nicer camping spot. However, we planned to leave earlier on the Sunday morning, to make better use of the tides and reach the shelter of the Newhaven harbour wall and the River Ouse,before the stronger winds arrived.

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Saturday evening was magical. The tourists left leaving us alone on the beach. A small amount of driftwood was found to make a fire which was lovely and warming.

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Before bed, we walked to the top of the first of the Seven Sisters, where we could see the twinkling lights of Brighton in the distance, below a star filled sky. We camped at the top of the shingle with lovely views from tents out to sea. However the down-side of this was that 3 out of 4 of us didn’t sleep as much as we might have done because the roar of a wave sweeping across a long pebble beach is very noisy! 2 out of the 4 of us were cold in the night – a reminder that it is still April!

Sunday morning initially the wind was calm but we could feel the wind slowly building. We left 9.50am our lovely camping spot fortified with breakfast and hot drinks. Paddling against a head wind from the west we made steady progress. We passed under South Hill, where there might have been some choppy water over the ledge there.  After Seaford cliffs our speed dropped a bit as we came into the bay,the tide having turned against us. We had a go at guessing distances from Seaford cliffs to Newhaven. We were able to see the light at the end of Newhaven’s westerly pier and so assumed that Newhaven wasn’t far away but in fact it was still ~3NM (~6km) away!  The wind was F3 perhaps and building as we paddled to Newhaven. Alex and I had some practice at towing initially in a “V” arrangement which is very sociable if you both have 15m towlines, and then in an in-line tow. As we saw the ferry to Dieppe reversing out of Newhaven harbour we came out of the towing arrangement in case there was some wake. The harbour office had warned the ferry that the wind was now F5 with gusts of F6 on the end of the Western harbour wall, so we had made the right call to start the day paddling earlier.  We landed on the beach to the east of Newhaven’s Eastern harbour wall at ~11.30am.  It was lovely to be in the sun & out of the wind. We had more hot drinks and snacks, or for some lunch #1. Alex’s speedy cooker warmed up some milk for our teas & coffees – luxury!

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The inbound tide up the River Ouse started at 12.30pm. At ~1pm we paddled through the concrete lattice structure which makes up Newhaven’s Eastern harbour wall, after Alex got the OK from Newhaven harbour control that there were no commercial traffic in the harbour. The harbour is a working harbour where there is the most amazing pile of scrap metal made up of compressed cars.

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After the scrap metal pile on the east came a very new looking incinerator, and then there were fields.  At 1.30pm we got to Piddinghoe where we had lunch #1 or #2 for others. I was grateful to 2 friends for dropping off a bottle of fresh water because I was almost out of clean water. (I’d unwisely used some to rinse pans the night before!)

We then got back on the river at ~2pm. We knew we had an inbound tide at Lewis until ~4pm but were not sure how long we would have the tide after Lewes. So we needed to paddle swiftly, otherwise we might be fighting an out-flowing tide later on. We could very much feel the wind from the West in the wider, exposed parts of the river, and so we needed to use our skegs. Now the inbound tide was now much stronger. Alex mentioned that we were doing 5knots and we’d just past a speed limit sign of 5.5knots! The jet ski and motor boat (I assume) hadn’t seen the speed limit, whilst the lone kayaker going (downstream) against the flow was very much inceeding the speed limit!

We reached Lewes very quickly ~3pm after views of chalk rolling hills, fields, walkers on the river bank, cattle and sheep with lambs. Lewis doesn’t provide welcoming public landing spots. In fact the public landing spot just SW of the road bridge has some steps where access is hampered by an overgrown bush. We did have an option of attempting to get out at grassy river bank just north east of the town. What we did instead was to have a rest rafting up to have snacks and water, whilst gloriously continuing to be taken upstream by the tide!

After Lewes we saw fewer people, and we took a left hand “short cut” down a narrower channel.  From now on we were out of the wind. This was a perfect channel for kayakers – it is easily wide enough for 1 kayaker and we zoomed along dodging the odd tree branch in the water.  When we re-joined the main channel we noticed there was a small weir as the main channel dropped down in height ~0.5ft which perhaps explained why our channel was flowing faster than the main channel. The river proceeded to get narrower, and there were lovely reeds on the banks, and we saw more ducks and swans.

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At Barcombe Mills we were not sure were to get out. At the mill area we could see there were kayakers above us –but 3 weirs were separating us from them! It was fun to explore up ever narrower channels possible get-outs – but these were steep, muddy and/or overgrown. We decided to get out under the road bridge which had steps to provide access to the river. This meant a very steep carry up the steps and for the fibre glass boats, carefully pulling them out of the river avoiding the sheet pile wall.

In total we had paddled 22 Nautical miles over the two days averaging ~2.9knots. See tracker below

Many thanks to Alex for planning and leading this lovely trip.

L2LE-10 eastbourne 2 barcombe mills GPS track

Margate to Kingsdown

Sat 16/17 August weekend saw the continuation of the paddle from London to Lands End. Alex, Liza and Fiona met to kayak from Margate towards Dover. After dropping (not literally!) kayaks off at Margate, Alex drove his car to Dover & came back on the train to Margate to enable a 1-way paddle. Over the weekend we had lovely paddling conditions with an off-shore light wind (F2), dappled sunshine and minimal swell.

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This was a fabulous trip which included an adventure! We had the opportunity to kayak through chalk arch (several times  =:) ) in Kingsgate bay where we got views of a castle, land at Broadstairs for ice cream, before crossing Ramsgate harbour entrance and then heading up the River Stour.

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On the way we saw a porpoise, and a Vulcan Bomber flew overhead which was deafening.

As we paddled against the outgoing flow up the Stour we saw perhaps 50 or so seals which had beached themselves on high ground at high tide. As we approached some of them launched themselves down the muddy bank and slid into the water. It was amazing to watch. The same muddy bank which provided the seals with an excellent slide became our challenge [cum-adventure] as we were looking for  a place to land and camp overnight. We paddled further & further upstream looking for a place to land where we could haul the kayaks up above the high water line.

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Eventually we found a gravelly spot to land and were able to create some steps and a platform from an old disused pallet to put into the mud to create a less-slippy, non-sinking surfaces to walk on & move the kayaks up. Tents were speedily put up & supper eaten by head-torch.  Our camping spot had the unusual combination of having a stunning night sky, but with sporadic noise from A road & the wind carried noise from the fairground in Ramsgate! However I was sufficiently tired that no noise would have kept me awake. We also discovered that we had camped in a particularly dewy spot & if we had camped at the top of the bank it was several degrees warmer, and got the same level of road noise.DSC01566

After a wonderful night’s rest 5.30am came & we were getting up, to benefit from the outgoing flow down the Stour. Which we did! Having launched into the flow we were gently floated downstream & all the corners we had fought to go upstream whizzed by! Yet again we were entertained with the sight of tens of seals launching themselves down the muddy banks, as we again silently passed by, only this time a light aircraft disturbed the peace by passing by low three times – I assume to see the seals too? Further downstream the Stour becomes very shallow and even the channel markers are beached. The great part about this is that you are kayaking at the same eye height as all the birdies who are standing on the exposed sandbanks. We think we saw a pair of spoonbills.

Once out of the river we headed out to sea so that we could pick up the tide to be taken south, (as well as avoid being beached on mudflats). We landed at Deal just before the pier for a hot drink and a rest. The shingle beach was deep and even with no swell we still managed to get a fair amount of water into the cockpits when we landed!  During the trip we saw some interesting boats, an RNLI boat presumably doing a routine exercise, a windfarm boat which had interesting bow presumably for landing at the bottom of a turbine, and a boat which delivers local captains who can drive big ships into tricky harbours.

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Over the course of the weekend we were highly conscious of the time window which we had for going into Dover harbour & the earlier landing points between the cliffs for the end of the paddle. Although we had ideal calm conditions for going into Dover harbour, we decided on Liza & Fiona landing at Kingsdown rather than paddling into Dover Harbour. We were starting to get tired and although conditions were good, the spring tide was turning against us and we would soon start to feel its effects; not to mention that if we missed the high water window, we could end up paddling against a 4 knot flow as the harbour drains out of the entrance. We also would need to be prepared for bigger conditions, as the north-easterly swell and waves was reflected back from both the harbour wall and the cliffs.

So we agreed Alex who was considerably fitter after recent couple of weeks of paddling in difficult weather conditions in NW Scotland, would continue to Dover and send a text before 3pm to let us know either whether he had landed in Dover Harbour, or turned back to Kingsdown or St Margaret’s. As expected we got a happy text from Alex saying he had landed in Dover Harbour and the backup 3pm call to Dover port authority never needed to be made. With the sun shining, we were finally reunited at the Zetland Arms in Kingsdown, where Alex shared his experience of the last few miles under the famous white cliffs.

Thanks to Alex for organising a lovely weekend paddle along a new & stunning bit of coastline, and to Liza for being good company & bringing delicious snacks!

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Hayling Island March 2017

A grey day was forecast with force 2-3 winds but it turned out to be slightly worse than expected with fog blanketing everything south of Guildford resulting in fairly poor visibility. Liza, Jonathon, Rob and I met at The Inn on the Beach shortly after 9.30 – it was chilly and getting on the water was not particularly appealing! We decided to ‘keep an eye on the conditions’, pay the ridiculous parking fee (£6 per car) and drink tea whilst waiting for Fiona to arrive. The combination of driving a ‘new’ (hire) car with a kayak fixed to it via inflatable roof bars in a gusting wind led to a conservative speed of 50mph but she still reached us by 10am.

Before launching we discussed our varying levels of experience, who could roll/rescue, fitness and injuries etc. Jonathon confessed to hurting his wrist the previous evening loading the boats but thought he’d be OK to paddle. We agreed to attempt a circumnavigation of Hayling Island – going anticlockwise to complete the open sea part early on in the day.

An exciting surf launch was followed by a morning of paddling in poor visibility with smooth/slight sea conditions. We battled into a force 3 head wind but fortunately had the tide with us. Progress was slow for some of us – reflecting injuries and not being ‘paddle-fit’ after several months off the water. The sights were limited to a few gulls, stripy beach huts, shingle beach and a desolate fun-fair until – on the approach to Chichester harbour – we spotted some sinister looking white caps and breaking waves. Our fearless leader went to check the surf and indicated a path of safe passage – we went through one by one – Liza taking the lead and Rob the rear.

The tide turned as we headed up the East coast of the island. We made slow progress and decided to stop for lunch at Hayling Island Sailing Club. We enjoyed a good break watching the sailors in a range of boats – including oppies and toppers. By far the most interesting were the ones that pivoted on a tiny blade and flew along on the surface of the water.

We had a chat after lunch and decided that given our slow progress, Jonathon’s wrist, the risk of a muddy passage at the top of the island and the poor weather our best option would be to go back the way that we had come. Prior to that though, we thought we’d explore a little further up the coast. Upon launching we realised the deceptively fast speed of the current and were immediately carried off in a southerly direction. Turning 180 degrees to go North as intended proved to be a pointless exercise so we quickly abandoned that and were happy being carried back with minimal effort! By this time, the wind had dropped a little and was mostly behind us.

We crossed a small eddy line then snuck through a narrow, shallow channel between the island and the sandbanks created by the receding tide. We popped out by some rocks well away from the booming surf breaking on the sandbars further off shore.

On our return journey we saw a shag and several black headed gulls; Fiona squeezed between the groyne posts and other markers just off-shore and we heard numerous fog horns but saw no ships.

Back safely at our launch site we decided to do some rolling practice and surf landings followed by tea and triple-chocolate-sparkle cake to warm up. Finally, the fog lifted and we were able to see along the coast where we had paddled!

Thanks to Rob for organising and leading the trip.

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Sally Horton

Chelsea Kayak Club Western Highlands 2016

Lismore Lighthouse

Lismore Lighthouse

Day 1 Friday 22/07/16

Falls of Lora

CKC started the 2016 Western Highlands “Mulvonachoan” expedition at Connel Bridge, just outside Oban, where Alex and Geoff were pitting themselves against the rapids at the Falls of Lora, on Springs, for a Friday evening pre-expedition warmup paddle. Miranda, Loz and John wended their ways from Oban, through the lovely late afternoon scenery, to join them post-paddle for dinner at Connel Bridge. Then we all headed to the lovely Backpackers Plus hostel, in a converted church in Oban, and settled in for the night, ready for setting off for Mull the next day. In the meantime, Olwen and Philippa made it to the Backpackers’ hostel around 2 am, (after an interesting journey up from Wimbledon, via the wrong Backpackers’ Hostel), and grabbed a few hours’ kip.

Day 2 Saturday 23/07/16

Fionnphort

We all headed off on the early morning ferry from Oban to Mull. It was nippy out on deck, with greyish skies, but we were warmed by cups of coffee and enjoyed lovely views going past Lismore and its lighthouse, across to Craignure. We passed the “Women’s Stone,” and Philippa pointed out that it was a memorial replica of the stake to which two errant women were tied by highland clan chiefs, left to drown in the incoming tide for their devotional loyalties. Alex, as he read to us from his map, was mistaken for a tour guide by a couple of American tourists out on deck.

At Craignure, we piled into the two cars and with John navigating headed down the South Road towards the South West coast of Mull, stopping several times on the way, mainly hunting for gas cylinders. We found plenty, plus shortbread, friendly chats with shopkeepers, herring lines, (at Fingal’s), smidge, macaroni pie and other essentials… At the campsite in Fionnphort (pronounced “Finnyfort” as we found out later on when Kenneth arrived), we settled on a cosy camping spot by the sea, with perfect trailer access and a kitchen spot in the middle.

An evening paddle got us in the kayaking mood for the coming week. As we glided along in the golden evening sun of South West Mull, we encountered wildlife – a mink running along the shoreline, and seals, following our kayaks from a safe but friendly distance. Conditions became a bit bouncy for the first day, and dinner was within reach. So we returned – and were greeted by the sight of Kenneth on the shore, hailing us from a large sun-drenched rock. From which Loz and Miranda went for a swim excursion exploring the bay in the evening sun. The water was clear and we watched crabs scuttle across the sand beneath us as we swam.

Day 3 Sunday 24/07/16

Iona Circumnavigation: 10.2 Nm

We woke up early and made breakfast, and were on the water at the Fionnphort campsite for 0845, heading out for our first paddle all together – across to Iona for the Sunday service. The misty grey skies cleared as we started across the Sound of Iona, and the sun stayed with us for the trip across. After a calm morning’s paddle, we drew up alongside the slipway on a welcoming local beach, and headed up the road to the Abbey, mostly in kayaking kit, holding our valuables in dry bags.

Crossing to Iona

Crossing to Iona

The service was quite an experience. The sun came out again just before communion, beaming down through the high windows above the altar table. We had an affable welcome from the Abbey volunteers, no-one noticed us turning up in kayaking gear (or they were too polite to say anything). The service was illuminating – there was a sense of collectiveness, in singing the hymns, in the chanting during the prayers, in  but also in the spiritual approach of Iona, which we read about in their prayer book – an inclusive ethos, with a collective concern for the environment, and for human rights. After the service oatcakes we ate the offered oatcakes, each one to be broken in half and shared with a stranger, and mingled. Philippa chatted to a fellow Londoner about the Abbey’s history and how a group from Clapham had rebuilt the Iona community in the 1960s. A few of the congregation trickled out into the grounds of the Abbey and pottered about or sat on the grass outside. We paused at the water’s edge in the bright, warm Hebridean sun and took photos by the MacLean cross.

Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

Eventually we left the Abbey and headed back to our boats at the beach to get back on the water, and completed our circumnavigation of the island. The sun stayed out and the rest of the trip back was uneventful, peaceful and companionable. Alex managed to locate the spouting cave on the west coast, we lingered for a while, but concluded it was switched off. We just made it through Stac an Aoineidh, the “washing machine” rocks on the south-west corner of Iona, as the tide had turned and was starting to build against us. Any later and we would have missed the gate.

Heading back to Laggan Bay

Heading back to Laggan Bay

We returned to the campsite in a slight drizzle, for a swim, dinner, hot showers. The sun was low and silver in the sky, and the gentle rain which had greeted us stopped just in time for our dinner. Loz and Miranda made lemon and coriander cous cous, topped with tinned mackerel and squeezed lemon, with carrot and raw mushroom on the side.

Day 4 Monday 25/07/16

Laggan Bay to Ulva: 5.5 Nm

The forecast was Force 4-5, increasing to Force 6. The plan was to break camp and head back from the south west coast in the cars, to the middle of Mull, and find a get-in where we could park up and paddle across to Ulva for a few days’ wild camping. We took our time packing up, cooking a camp breakfast of sausage and mushroom, filling up with water (5L each ready for the expedition), and loading the club boats on to the trailer. We drove East and after a couple of hours, the Isle of Inch Kenneth came into view, along with enchanting glimpses of beautiful Ulva’s little islands and bright greenery. Alex played us country tunes and a spot of Hebridean folk as the scenes of the bay and the islands flashed past the car window.

We parked and launched from Laggan Bay after an appropriate amount of kit faff. Eventually on the water, we paddled southeast, back past the ferry, and towards Loch na Keal. We rounded the tip of Ulva, and headed round to its SE coast, passing and playing in lovely rock formations with hexagonal pillars set bright against the setting sun.

Just before the rainbow, checking out possible campsites

Just before the rainbow, checking out possible campsites

We finally stopped at a couple of bays Alex had identified during the circumnavigation of Mull he’d undertaken with Geoff the year before. The first bay was sheltered and pretty but the second had a better camping area with a 270 degree panoramic view. We set up camp at around 9pm, which meant Alex had to mend his broken tent poles in the dark, helped by generous offers of food, drink and spare pegs to create splints.

Campsite on Ulva

Campsite on Ulva

Day 5 Tuesday 26/07/16

Ulva to Staffa to Ulva: 10.8 Nm

We had a lazy morning drinking tea, watching the wind and the world go by, and contemplating our planned trip to Staffa. Philippa explored the local area, finding lovely bays, plastic boxes and bird life – wrens in the rocks and an eagle overhead.

We crossed to Staffa, which didn’t take too long, and despite the weather conditions weren’t challenging. We took a route that dotted around via Little Colonsay in order to keep sheltered as long as possible. After a while clouds of puffins came into view, along with guillemots, shell ducks and several gannets, plunging from the sky to fish. We had reached Staffa. Threading our way between the rocks and crashing waves, as the Atlantic swell broke over the Staffa skerries, we explored the caves. Loz headed into Boatmans’s Cave, the entrance surrounded by crashing surf, and enjoyed an inadvertent but rewarding surf right into the cave entrance. When she returned, she reported the inside was square and box like.

Then the pièce de résistance – Fingals’ cave. Paddling into Fingals’ cave was a treat for all of us, but had been a life-long ambition for Olwen. We appraised the entry point. There was some chop at the immediate entrance to the caves but a straightforward passage in. Philippa and Miranda backed in first, waving at the tourists picking their way over the wet rock to the cave. We lay back on our decks, bobbing and staring at the blocky rock formations on the cave ceiling until Alex’s shout heralded a wave, which we paddled into and out of the cave. The group went in, two by two, closely followed by a tourist boat.

Ulva Seals

Ulva Seals

We paddled out and round the corner to have lunch then returned to the Ulva side of the island to make our way back, with Olwen returning via our exact starting spot to ensure a legitimate claim to circumnavigation. The paddle back was calm and lovely, Alex caught a whopping mackerel. He made a fire and cooked his mackerel in foil in the embers, just so. Then he added basmati rice, egg and lemon. A perfect tonic after a freezing swim with the curious seals.

Day 6 Wednesday 27/07/16

Ulva to Inch Kenneth to Laggan Bay: 7.88Nm Max Speed 8.5Kn (following sea)

Wednesday was the last day of our Ulva expedition, and the last day we would be seven, as Loz was returning to Oban. Our schedule involved kayaking the eight or so nautical miles back to the parked cars at Laggan Bay, on Mull, via a lunch stop on Inch Kenneth, and driving over to Tobermory on the north coast of Mull in order to catch the last ferry to Kilchoan, on the mainland.

We woke as early as we could, and as we emerged one by one from our tents into the dreich morning, a welcoming sizzling from Olwen’s tranjia indicated that breakfast was nearly ready. We shared a roll of fresh(ish) local black pudding, sourced by Alex and Olwen on the drive from Craignure to Fionnphort, sliced into disc-shaped chunks and served fresh from the pan with a baked bean accompaniment.

Warmed, we packed our kit ready to leave lovely Ulva, just as it started raining. All week it had been squally, both on and off the water, but the rain never seemed to affect group morale, as the showers were invariably interspersed with sunny spells, which would cast a bright warmth and set the damp landscape sparkling.

The paddle was calm initially as we set out, then, as we crossed the more exposed part of the bay towards Inch Kenneth we became aware that we had a following sea. Waves approaching behind us lifted the tails of our kayaks, rocking us with a regular up-and-forward-then-down-and-back motion. They were rollers – large, but uniform, and we soon got used to the rhythm, and all travelled well, and pretty speedily, with their assistance, hitting 8.5 knots at the fastest. After not very long, our destination, mile-long Inch Kenneth, came into view, and we parked up on its golden sheltered sands for an early lunch. Inch Kenneth is known for being the home of both Sir Harold Bolton, who wrote the lyrics to the ‘Skye Boat Song’, and members of the Mitford family who bought the island in the 1930’s. We explored the immediate area, with its ruins of the monastery (named after St Kenneth) and burial sites of past kings of Scotland.

Puffins on Inch Kenneth

Puffins on Inch Kenneth

After pottering round the island, we lunched at about 1130 on our last-day expedition rations. Alex foraged some seaweed and made up miso soup which he shared with Kenneth. Back on the water, crossing the mouth of Loch na Keal to head back to Ulva was our second challenge of the day – as we set out, the flow seemed fast from West to East along the coast. Up close, however, it wasn’t that fast and the crossing was straightforward. Progressing towards Mull, we headed rounded the south east corner of Ulva and up the narrow channel between Ulva and Mull where the ferry crosses. Paddling north up the channel, a strong headwind put us through our paces, but we hugged the shore and crawled steadily up until we hit the harbour. At the Boathouse pub, Alex and Kenneth magicked up hot chocolate, cappuccinos and a selection of cakes, which we shared sitting outside on picnic benches in the bright sun, overlooking the water. It was a short hop then to Laggan bay, where we were reunited with the cars and our warm, dry kit. We were pretty tired and damp after our 3 day expedition, and warm dry clothes were a relief after loading the boats and kit in the rain. However, the day’s journey was nowhere near complete – we still needed to push on to make the last Kilchoan ferry from Tobermory, and then to find somewhere to settle for the night on reaching the mainland.

We said goodbye to Loz, at the side of the road in the nearly rain, and she headed off back to Craignure with Olwen and Philippa. Alex wended us via the North part of the Island, passing Calgary, Dervaig and beautiful Glengorm, en route to Tobermory, where we joined the ferry queue just behind Olwen and Philippa who’d returned from Craignure in good time to secure their place on the last sailing. We managed to squeeze last into the queue, making it on with time to spare for the fish and chip van. Upstairs on the ferry we watched as the lighthouse went past, and Kilchoan came into view. We landed in the evening sun, and after a quick recce of local alternatives, and some discussion, opted for a wild campsite.

Kilchoan from our wild campsite

Kilchoan from our wild campsite

Heading across to the campsite involved re-packing the kit into the kayaks and donning waterproofs (some conventional, some less so) – as the campsite, it transpired, was only accessible by boat. By now it was late, and looking up, as we paddled across the bay, the sky over Kilchoan was dark, vast, and illumined with stars. The spot was good and flat, and right by the water, but it had its challenges. The ground was rocky and hard to pitch in, and the whole area liberally strewn with cowpats. It had been a pretty epic day, and a long journey, meaning morale was slightly lower than on previous pitches. We pitched camp, chatted and nibbled and finally hit the hay. We bedded down just before the rain started, which, happily, seemed to be the sequence most nights.

Day 7 Thursday 28/07/16

Kilchoan Regatta Day 1

We woke to clear skies and bright sunshine for the first day of Kilchoan regatta, devoted to sailing. While Alex got off to an early start to sail in the first race, Olwen, Philippa, Kenneth and Miranda had a leisurely start. Kenneth and Miranda paddled past Alex, sitting in the calm, virtually windless waters, and joined Philippa and Olwen at the marina then before setting out across Kilchoan Bay for a picnic on a shingle beach. Stopping at the castle, Kenneth established from friendly folk working there that it was being hired out as a B+B. We were pretty tempted after the previous night’s wild camping… But after a long lunch we headed back, leaving Philippa to head off for a slightly longer pootle around the bay where she found a standing stone before weaving her way back via a fish farm. We stopped at the quayside and greeted Geoff, who had flown in from South Africa just in time for the second sailing race, and then we all went up to Geoff and Sandra’s for a lovely shower and a curry. Sandra’s curries were  numerous and (of course) phenomenal – Keema Matar, an amazing chicken and pepper concoction, black dhal, and chickpea curry. The boys (somehow) headed back to the campsite on foot, while Olwen, Philippa and Miranda plumped for the nautical route, heading gently out into the bay, under the cool indigo sky, making the most of the  night time paddle. On arrival, Alex kindly strobed a guiding beam from the shore as we reached the campsite to hit the hay.

Geoff and Alex round the leeward mark, ahead of the rest of the fleet

Geoff and Alex round the leeward mark, ahead of the rest of the fleet

 

Day 8 Friday 29/07/16

Kilchoan Regatta Day 2

Regatta Day

Regatta Day

The second day of the regatta heralded CKC’s barnstorming performance in the kayak races. Olwen won the women’s single kayak race and the rest of us were not too far behind in claiming a few of the other kayaking and sailing titles, plus a whisky-based raffle win for John. We all had a fantastic time at the regatta, in particular because of the warmth and friendliness of everyone in Kilchoan in welcoming us and offering excellent company and sportsmanship. Not to mention the beautifully hewn rocky road rice crispy cakes which pretty much made the day for more than one of us.

The pub was fully booked for the evening, so we were treated to a second night of Chef Sandra’s beautiful cooking – this time we lucked out with not one but two excellent paellas washed down with red wine. Then down to the community centre for an evening of Ceilidh-ing. Another warm welcome from all, not least in the form of some very welcome dance step guidance, and a whirlwind of dance tunes – the Canadian barn dance, an Oh Susannah medley, Ye cannae throw yer granny off the bus, yankee doodle, St Bernard’s waltz, dancing in a circle to the left for eight to the right, then in pairs then forward stamp, back clap and through the arch to form the next six. A break for a seemingly endless raffle, a couple more dances and then we gave in to exhaustion. And a moonlit tramp across the fields which started well, strayed slightly into a bog in the middle, and ended in the right place. Just as the rain started, of course.

Ladies K2

Ladies K2

Day 9 Saturday 30/07/16

Falls of Lora (Neaps)

All packed up early and headed back to Connel Bridge for our last day’s paddle at the Falls of Lora. All except Miranda headed out into the rapids (this time on neaps) under the excellent guidance of coach Tony Hammock. The crew successfully navigated overfalls, eddylines, spinning in whirlpools, a few moments upside-down in a whirlpool, breaking in and out of the flow with closed eyes, and rolling training.

We got off the water, packed the boats up and returned to Oban, to the Backpackers Hostel and its comfy bunk beds. The combination of soft dry bedding, hot showers, tea and chocolate digestives was extremely welcome. We sat for a few quiet moments, and Kenneth plugged his iphone in to charge and played us Ossian’s beautiful “I will set my ship in order” as we drank our tea on our bunk beds in the dorm. Then the inevitable mega faff as we sorted gear and switched cars ready for the morning’s trip home to London. Finally we all headed out for dinner on the quay at Oban. Crab, squid, scallops, crisp white wine, local ale and lovely company made for an excellent last meal.

Day 10 Sunday 31/07/16

We all got up early enough (despite predictions) to sit down together for our complimentary breakfast. It was a long drive back, re-imagining ourselves into city life. We chatted all the way, putting the world to rights and listening to some lovely tunes (thanks Olwen and DJ Kenny). And we reminisced – the curious seals enjoying the spectacle of us camping on the beach at Ulva; being outside all week; lovely evening paddles with the sun low on the water; the rainbow as we paddled alongside Inch Kenneth on the way to Ulva; drams of Auchentoshan as we got off the water at the end of each day; the warm satisfaction of drying kit on the beach when we arrived in sunny Kilchoan; swimming in the rain and early evening sun; the friendly buzz of the regatta (and excellent burgers); the taste of fresh mackerel cooked over a beach campfire; first sight of the puffins over the cliffs of Staffa; the whirlpools of the Falls of Lora;  Fingal’s cave; cheese and oatcakes; the vast views across Kilchoan bay and beyond; paddling under the stars…

Back at Kew, drivers Olwen and Alex both arrived at exactly the same time despite drop-offs on the way and unloaded kit, boats and people, thus completing CKC’s excellent 2016 Western Highlands “Mulvonachoan” expedition.

Kilchoan at Sunset with mast light and houses

Kilchoan at Sunset with mast light and houses

South Dorset trip September 10th-11th 2016

We started as a group of 8 for this trip and numbers dwindled as the adventure drew near leaving us with a core 4 who made it down the M3 through the wind and the rain to meet at the ‘High Street café’ in Swanage on the Saturday morning. As we set off west along the coast from the sandbanks toll against the strong headwinds and in heavy rain we questioned why on earth we would use our weekend after busy weeks to drive up to 6 hours to do this! We aimed to go to the Old Harry Rocks, yet fell short by a good 3km and landed on studland beach to rest from the treadmill we were on.  Rob’s boat became covered in sand from the wind just from our 20 minute stop.  A slice of chocolate biscuit cake gave us the energy to go a little further and play in some surf before heading back to Poole Harbour.  I would happily have gone home at this point but Jonathan suggested a lap round Brownsea island which saved the day.  It was gorgeous.  We got out of the wind, saw some great birds and I also expected to see dinasours at any point the island felt so wild and interesting.

Rob was very grateful for a cup of tea and shelter in the Bongo after this paddle. Generally, he finds the bongo ‘amusing’ especially when I am climbing up a step ladder and needing 3 people to haul kayaks on the roof, or when he sees them broken down on the side of the road. (Incidentally, it was Janices’ flash sports car that broke down and needed the AA on this trip, not the Bongo ). An excellent meal in the Scott’s Arms also boosted spirits even more. 

Sunday the weather was spectacular for kayaking. We launched our boats in front of rather a big crowd as we followed the performance of Morris dancers on the beach, part of the Swanage folk festival. For a moment I felt I was seeing a tribe in Papua New Guinea, their costumes were so strange!

We had a great paddle down the coast from Swanage to dancing ledge passing many rock climbers on route.  Rock climbing and sea kayaking would be a great combination for an expedition I thought to myself. Landing on dancing ledge was fun and done with little elegance, and again an audience of tourists. A great lunch spot and opportunity to swim in the natural pool there. Another 7 nautical mile round paddle and my shoulders were feeling it. This is my excuse for not nailing the practice roll at the end of the day.  I managed 1 roll, as did Jonathan and Rob showed off the re-entry roll and hand roll!resize_IMG_1782 Version 2 resize_IMG_1783 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As is custom on Dorset trips, we ended with cake/ ice cream/ tea before heading homeward.  Thanks Rob, Jonathan and Janice for another fantastic trip

 

Geors

Kew to Battersea, via The Grapes

Summer’s here. It’s a brilliant bright sunny day and the kayaks are out on the Thames. Six boats departed Kew on the ebbing tide. A short stop in Battersea and Fiona joined the gang, then off again. We headed through Westminster as the tide was almost out. The absence of much flow meant we could enjoy the sites, avoid the clippers and sneak right under the London Eye. It’s amazing how different town looks from the river.

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Onwards, with a few short stops to rescue stray balloons, and we were almost at Greenwich – when we got distracted. A pub was in sight. After a successful landing on an uninhabited beach, with numerous ladders to the pub, we were thwarted. They wouldn’t unlock the gates and let us in. Oh well, a picnic on the beach instead, before heading back upriver on the flood tide. On route we stopped in Westminster and raided the beer supplies of a (far more accommodating) boat on the Thames – climbing up over the side causing much confusion to the ‘normal’ folk who’d approached from the side-walk!

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30-ish miles, 8-hrs of sunshine, 7-kayaks, 6-stops, 5-ladders we couldn’t get up, 4-balloons chaired, 3-sun-burnt paddlers, 2-pubs and 1-person spotted sitting on a balcony overlooking the river.

Huge thanks go to Alex for a great day

Philippa, Fiona, Liza, Philippe, Dan and Tudor13161736_1099739103382788_3672276050411856077_o

 

 

Forthcoming trips 2016

I’m working on the trip list for 2016. I have had a few requests including Norway Fiordland, Marseilles and Greece as well as beginner trips. Is there anything in particular you would like the club to do? If so, please let me know and I’ll see what we can do. I’m aiming to have a range of trips with a variety of length, location and ability. If you would like help organising a trip, please let me know.

Flotilla with a flourish

You might have seen Sarah Outen in the papers – the “British adventurer” and “explorer from Rutland” who spent the past four and a half years travelling over 25,000 miles around the world by rowing boat, cycle and kayak.

During that time she cycled across the Gobi desert, paddled along the Aleutian Island chain and was forced to abandon her rowing boat in the Atlantic because of the threat of Hurricane Joaquin. On the final leg of her journey, Sarah cycled and kayaked from Falmouth to London, paddling under Tower Bridge on 3 November to complete her journey.

The press were out in force to photograph the conclusion of her epic journey, and a photo of Sarah popping a bottle of champagne graced the cover of several newspapers. You might also have seen a collection of tiny red kayaks in the background – what the Telegraph  called a “small flotilla”. That was, of course, the serried ranks of Chelsea Kayak Club out to accompany Sarah on her last leg.

Leaving Kew

Leaving Kew

Twelve of us met at seven in the morning in Kew, along with members of Rutland Canoe Club where Sarah learned to kayak as a teenager. Kit was prepared and our boats emblazoned with large flapping union jacks which meant we would be impossible to miss. The explorer herself was already out on the Thames and met us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, along with her friend and kayaking partner Justine Curgenven.

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We were accompanied along the whole final stretch by a tag-team of RNLI crews, who looked as though they wanted someone to fall in to liven up their morning. And along the way Sarah was greeted by friends cheering from bridges and gaggles of schoolchildren with motivational posters. You could feel the love.

At some points Sarah was left alone, paddling at the head of our slightly messy arrowhead formation. But it felt wrong to intrude on what must have been for her a deeply private moment as well as a public one.

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At the same time, it felt pretty good to be cheered over the finish line, even though we knew that our paltry four hours of paddling was just the full stop to Sarah’s four-year sentence. After a final lap around HMS Belfast, we paddled out under Tower Bridge to much applause and firemen on an emergency boat spraying their hoses 20 feet into the air.

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Sarah had kind words for us afterwards – “What a special end to a mad and wonderful few years of journeying”. But it was special for us too, and a real privilege to be a small part of someone else’s big adventure.

Thanks to Alex for his organisation and for the logistics of boats and kit. Now does the club have any idea what we can do with a dozen union jacks?

Izzy Kaminski