Friday, April 15, 2016

Sea Kayaking: Up the creek with a paddle.

Yon lies Padstein
Browsing through a free ads paper about 12 or so years ago,my eyes alighted on an ad for a Prijon Yukon sea kayak. Despite being pretty involved in various outdoor activities which included having a basic understanding of sailing a dinghy, I’d never taken to water activities like white water paddling. I’ve always loved everything about the sea and rivers but I’ve always had a healthy respect, nay, fear! of water. I can swim - not very well- and I’ve even dived off the highest high diving board you can imagine but land is very much my natural element.

So, somewhat impulsively and-without knowing a thing about sea kayaks- I rolled up at a house outside Oswestry with £400 and returned home with a precariously balanced sea kayak on the roof of my old Sierra. Desperate to get on the sea but not having the skills or confidence, I searched the Internet for local clubs and paddlers forums and pretty soon, struck lucky. I was invited to go on a club trip down the Menai Straits that very weekend. It was a pretty intimidating prospect. I’d never even sat in a sea kayak and didn’t know a soul of course but that was the least of my worries. The club paddlers were great but one look at the current surging down the straits, crashing and swirling around the pillars of the towering bridge just above the jetty, scared the bejasus out of me! I was in half a mind to say ‘I can’t do this’ but at that moment, drowning seemed preferable to outright humiliation!

Rockhopper on Cowland's Creek, Cornwall.

All too soon, I fixed on my spray deck, dropped my rudder and paddled into the current, hoping that instinct and luck would kick in and carry me through. After a few minutes the dry mouthed fear was replaced by something approaching excitement as I bounced through the bridge arches and remained upright. Just up river, the party gathered mid stream and I turned my boat around to look back. Something made me look back over my shoulder and I was drifting backwards at a great speed straight into a marker in the river. Now in a flatter section I’d lost all perspective but the current was still surging powerfully down the Straits in the direction of Caernarfon.

Porth Trecassell,Ynys Mon
We got out at the old Dolphin Inn and after the thrills and thankfully, no spills, I was pretty hooked on this sea kayaking malarkey. The club were nearly all seasoned veterans in their sleek fibreglass classic Greenland style sea kayaks.Most had expensive dry suits and everything the well equipped sea paddler needs, from CB radios, to deck compasses, tow lines to spare split paddles. By contrast, I was the novice in my plastic tub, using a cheap wet suit, second hand kag, paddle that was heavier than a Navvy’s spade and a Decathlon life jacket. Nevertheless, I had some great days out with them. Mostly exploring the Angelsey coast and one memorable time, a trip to Hilbre Island off the tip of the Wirral Peninsular when in really stormy conditions, I was capsized by a big wave. To be fair, the highly experienced veteran next to me went first. I looked over and..’Christ...he’s gone!’ Executing a perfect roll he returned and then a wave tossed him over again. By the time he came back I’d gone too in a rolling, churning ball of surf, sand and adrenaline. By the time I’d come to my senses, I’d been washed up on the shore.
Outside the club, I’d made paddling buddies with some experienced local lads and even bought my teenage son a sea kayak to join me on the briny. More great trips followed and I managed to paddle in Scotland and Cornwall. In fact with Luke, I developed a real fascination with the Cornish Creeks. At the time of writing, I’ve explored all but one or two and what fascinating places they are. Often out of bounds to even small boats, some of the shallower creeks can only be reached by kayak. Despite Cornwall in the holiday season being rather crowded, paddling down some of these creeks can be like being on the Amazon. Quiet, verdant and alive with bird song and the splash of rising fish.
Some fine trips stand out like Lostwitheal to Fowey. Paddling passed Dauphne du Maurier’s house right on the Foy and paddling from Combe near Truro to Falmouth along The Carrick Roads in conditions that ranged from millpond stillness to crashing waves.

In Scotland, off the island of Shuna at twilight as seals popped up all around to see who was disturbing their reverie. 

A Club Flotilla at Treaddur Bay
The original Prijon Yukon went not long after I started sea kayaking. I didn’t realise it at the time but it was the perfect boat for a beginner. Compared to the sleek traditional Greenland style boats it was a real ugly ducking but just about as stable as you can get. I’ve had a few sea kayaks since then including another German made Prijon. This time the Kodiak; a large capacity tourer, A classic P&H Icefloe which came down from Scotland and little Rockhopper. Only the Rockhopper remains and it was my craft when I made my last trip on the water four years ago when I paddled it from Penpol Creek on the Foy to Leryn and back.

However, the call of the sea remains and I’ve just bought my third Prijon-a Touryak- from someone who was giving up sea kayaking and including all his gear with the boat. Serious paddlers will always look down their nose at rotomoulded-Plastic- sea kayaks, especially as the Prijons are fitted with foot pedal operated rudders which 'proper' paddlers wouldn't be seen dead using! To be a proper sea paddler you must have a narrow ( hence tippy) fibreglass boat with a skeg,even if you do risk punching a hole in your boat on some jagged unseen rock every time you explore a rock garden! but I’m sold on Prijons as they are a sea kayak equivalent of a Land Rover.

A Prijon Touryak...The new boat
It’s been a while but the call of the sea is too powerful to be ignored Roll on some blue sky days!.

No comments:

Post a Comment