Pembrokshire, Sea Exped 11 – 20th September.

This probably was the main expedition of the year 2020 due to Covid 19 stopping play. The following has been lifted and edited from my personal paddling record. The 9 paddlers were Barry I (@lollistixpaddles), Andy E, James W’f, John H, Mark B, Alan J,Chris P (Colchester and Braintree CC), Estelle K (EACSK ), and Dave P (EACSK). All experienced/intermediate paddlers apart from Chris who is a White Water paddler, now converted! All distances are estimates.

Sat 12 Sept paddle Milford Haven Estuary. F2/3 increasing.HW 14:11 sunny 19c on at 11:35 off 17:00 10 miles (15k) Group of 9. Launch West Angle Bay paddled  SW to Rat Island, Sheep Island (Chris capsized rounding the point) crossed the estuary north West via RAT Buoy channel marker to Blockhouse. East to Watwick Bay ( Lunch beautiful secluded beach, with a couple of yachts anchored in the bay), NE to Watwick Point, Castle Beach Bay, Dale  Point,  Watch House Point, Gt Castle Head. Crossed to  south side of Estuary to West Pitt then West through Thorn Island  (2m swell) and back to West Angle Bay.

Sunday 13 Milford Haven Estuary. F4/5 W HW 16.00? Overcast on 11:00? Off 17:55 10.24 miles Group of 9. West Angle bay to Pembroke River. Out of West Angle Bay and east through the gap at Thorne Island hugging  the southern shore line to Angle Bay (where our campsite was) where we had a convenience  stop.  Then out to East Angle Buoy  (Barry called Port authorities to say 9 kayaks were coming through and to check shipping). Continued  past the tankers (seal spotted) to a beach for lunch. Then east to another bay/inlet Pembroke River just short of Pembroke Dock, before  heading back west, doing a bit of rock hoping on the way. Once back at Thorne Island we went round the northern side into a 1+m swell, quite a rugged coastline and then back into West Angle bay. Turned into a small lagoon and practiced rolling, and rescues.(This lagoon was where the  guests staying on Thorne Is. used to be picked up from. It is the site of  a former Lime kiln) Headed back to the beach and played in the small surf waves. Another excellent day.

Monday 14 Freshwater Bay surfing. Sea boat and WW Mamba.F4/5 1m swell,sunny and very hot 28c. Group of 9. Some surfed sea boats, some WW boats some surfed Surf boats ( Dave P excellent bit of surfing, could’ve watched you all day – and I did), and me in my Mamba WW boat surfed ok, got some good waves. The Swimming trophy was passed from hand to hand on this beach as various people (some of whom vehemently denied swimming – camera never lies) went for a swim. Good surf beach. It was such a hot sunny day with glorious scenery you could have been abroad (Wales doesn’t count as being abroad, or does it?).

Tuesday 15 West Angle Bay to Westdale Bay to Sheep Island. NW? F1/2 overcast 18c 15 miles Group of 9. Timing for this trip was critical. On the water 0950 off 1800. From W Angle  Bay followed  the cardinal buoys to north side of Milford Haven Estuary to West Blockhouse, then hugging the coast west to St Ann’s Head, then north into thick fog. Rounding the headland was a little bumpy, but there were safe zones to lay up in, otherwise this was a committed paddle with no get outs until Westdale bay. The rock gardens around  Long Point where very eerie especially in the fog.  You couldn’t see Westdale Bay but you hear it -a surf beach. Came across a Sup surfer who appeared out of the fog and asked him  about landing conditions,then surfed in. This was the  get out point had anyone not wanted to continue. Nice small secluded beach. This was our lunch stop. (1200). Launching into the surf we headed back. The fog had lifted at times. There were some big surf waves 1m+. Following the coastline south. At Iron Point several people followed  each other into a rock garden only to get caught out in a hole  a very large set of surf waves came in(unnerving situation as they  didn’t have enough  room to manoeuvre and got bashed around. (This shook several of them up and was a learning curve- check the surf yourself and don’t go in blind). Once round St Ann’s Head we stopped off at Watwick Bay. We then followed the channel Markers in very thick fog following a compass  heading (West Chapel buoy, East Chapel and RAT Buoy) to the south east side of MH Estuary to Rat island. Cutting south to Sheep Island taking the gap through the mainland (confused water which sucked you through the gap into a sheltered bay. We continued onto West Packard  Bay.  From here we headed back north to W Angle Bay going round the west side of Sheep Island.

Wednesday 16 Freshwater East to Stack pole NE F1/2 ebb tide 20c group of 7. Mark and Chris went walking and exploring on foot. Easy parking at Freshwater East £5 all day.  Easy launch turned east and rock hopped all the way to Stack Pole.  Gained permission from Range Safety  to continue round to Saint Govans Head. Quite a spectacular coast line. The Archway at Stack Pole had a huge swell. I watched Estelle getting picked up on a large wave and propelled forward, quite impressive.The rest of the group were disappearing behind the large swell and then appearing a couple of seconds later on top of the wave. Really nice coast line with so much to explore. On the way back the group split up with 3 of us, Dave P, James W and myself staying out in the the deep water and headed straight back to Freshwater East bay. The others didn’t get off the water for another couple of hours, playing in the new found rocks and caves now the the tide had come in. This is a stretch of coastline which needs to be revisited.

Thursday 17 Solva to Port Clais, Pembrokeshire. E F4 sunny 18c. Exceptional Spring Tide. 8 miles. Group of 9. Solva was a pretty village but the tide was out! We had a bit of a walk to the water along the inle bay following the beached fishing boats and sail boats. Once out of the bay we turned right and headed west cave and rock hopping all the way along a spectacular coast line. As this was an exceptionally low tide we saw a lot more of what lay hidden beneath the water line, several ship wrecks and new gullies opened up for us. Port Clais was a pretty  little harbour but very smelly! (Fish  and diesel).  Coming out of Port Clais we made a bee line east to Black Rock (45 minute steady paddle), circumnavigated  it and then headed into Solva, due north from Black Rock. Looking at the coastline you could not see the harbour entrance. A small white pole stuck on top of the cliff was the give away  and as you got closer the houses came into view. There was a woman screaming from the top of the cliff – she had lost her dog. We could this large labrador quite happily barking at us wagging his tail half way down the cliff. and in absolutely no danger. We relayed this to the relieved woamn. As the tide  had come in we could paddle all the way to the slip way. Really nice day on the water.

Friday 18 E F5/6 18 c West  Angle Bay to Black Cave Group of 9, 6 miles.

This was plan  B after taking a look at the wind conditions in the Estuary (Plan a was a repeat run of Tuesday St Annes Head but going a little further and hopefully not in the fog). Nice slow paddle in the lee of the cliffs. High light was Alan stealing an eel off of a surprised seal. Best catch of the day. We never did find black cave but saw something higher up the cliff which could’ve been it. The beach at Freshwater East (Mondays paddle) looked very inviting, but we were running out of time.

Saturday 19th. Group of 3. The plan was to do the whole of the Gunnery ranges (part of Wednesdays paddle) but the winds just weren’t in our favour. Most of the group were planning on going home, but Barry, Andy and Estelle set off from the campsite at Angle Bay for a localised paddle. The exceptional tide had kept the rest of us marooned on the campsite as the bridge and road was flooded. Once the three “die hards” had set off the rest of us waited for the tide before heading home. An excellent week away. There are many photos taken which have been shared on FB, messenger and Whatsapp. A big thank you to Barry I ( BCC)(lollystix paddles) for suggesting, arranging and organising this trip – 8 happy paddlers and to all the cooks and chefs for the week – it was better than Michellin 5 star!

submitted by John H 280920

Friday 3rd July 2020 Evening 4 Star Training

The following blog has been lifted from the Forum General chat page.

About 18.00 Barry I (Lollystix Paddles) Mark B, Andy E, Clive M (MCC), Mike D and others went out for a play from Bradwell – believe they all had fun too and included swimming. No names will be mentioned but clearly a “Swimmer of the Moment” Trophy winner. Mark, have you seen the trophy?

Johns words

Marks story – On this evenings sea paddle four of us where out supporting “Lollystix paddles” = Barry.
On the evening of this sea trip the wind was gusting up to force F5/6. As Barry had a client, the four of us where there in support, and to practice our skills in these challenging conditions.
So with a good briefing by Barry on wind tide, weather, conditions and looking at the kit we all carried, such as first aid kit, boat repair & all the rest this was to help to put Barrys client at ease.
So we could all very subtly discover his customers skill level we paddled out of Bradwell Harbour entrance aiming for the two yellow marker buoys & then back into the safety of the Harbour. As we left the safety of the entrance the tide & wind came apparent with the wind from the WSW. High water was at the same time we set off, which gave us wind over tide, so challenging conditions.
We were all comfortable in these conditions so as one group of six, but splitting up a bit to gave us all room to move, I stayed close to Barry & his customer for the evening. On the second trip out we decided to head for Ross’s Revenge which was into the wind. This was about a one hour run there.
We all sheltered in the lea of the ship from the wind & then started back to Bradwell. This was going to be wind over tide with some very impressive ways to surf. Surfing is not my strong point; there hasn’t been much opportunity for me to practice sea kayak surfing. So, with some good encouragement from Andy E, Barry and Clive M, I decided to give it my all & with my successful roll the week before in F5/6, I was quite relaxed.
So off I went into the unknown, leaning forwards & backwards when required & seeing the whole of the nose of the kayak disappear & pick up the next surf wave (some of the time), I was flying.

All the time I was thinking, the Greenland paddle that I had made two months before was doing well, but in these conditions it would of, or might of, helped if the paddle had been a bit more stronger with all the force in the conditions.

I had just heard Andy E on the VHF marine radio say slow down when I spun out to my right & flipped over with a wave crashing down on top of the sea kayak. A little voice in the back of my head said, “Ok, take a deep breath psychologically, & where do we go from here?”
I knew that there would be five kayakers bearing down on me some time soon. Unbeknown to me, Andy E & Clive M where on their way. So I took my time & set up for the roll, & when I was happy, & all around me felt right, I started the roll which seemed to be working. Yes, I came up well, but the water smashed down on my right shoulder and started to push me back under the waves.
So under I go. Ok, I am back here again. I do remember that the water was lovely & warm plus so clear. If I did not need air, it would have been nice to see what I could see, but this was not the time to daydream. So, back into the roll & yes, oh yes, I made it, but the water smashed me on the right shoulder again and under I went.
Sitting here writing this, I was thinking maybe I should have tried a third roll; food for thought.
When I popped out of the sea kayak, I was quite surprised at how rough & big the waves were. So, holding on well to the paddle & the cockpit of the sea kayak; it must have been a good minute before a wave lifted me up with the Kayak & I could see Andy on the left & Clive going for it on the right. Sitting in the trough of the wave I did think I hope that they put the brakes on before getting to me. – Would just like to say “thanks boys”.
So with Andy on my left, he told me to grab the front of his sea kayak. This was all well & good, but at that moment I dropped a mile or he rose a mile. Andy said swim for it, but with a paddle in my right hand & my sea kayak looking as though it was going to hit me from the left & Andy’s kayak smashing back down, I decided to stay where I was & make my way to the front of Clive’s kayak. It is very surprising how calm & collective you are with all the training we have had over the years with Bramston CC.
So with Clive M going into automatic mode & grabbing the nose of my sea kayak & flipping it like a pancake, I gave him my paddle. I then waited for the right wave, in the right place to help me tumble with my head facing the back of the sea kayak. Patience waits for the wave to pass. You know by the motion of the sea through your body when to rotate into the seat of the sea kayak. Then it is time to put on your spray deck and at the same time pump out the remaining sea water. Andy E was standing off just in case he was needed to support the rescue, he wasn’t but he did make a rescue on Clive’s silver flask which had been knocked off his kayak in all the commotion.

A note to self – stow my camera back in the sea kayak not under my buoyancy aid next time I am trying to surf.

submitted by Mark B 110720

22nd JUNE – OB trip Stratford St Mary to Langham

Stratford St Mary to Langham Flumes & back.

Anna had sorted out a paddle to Langham Flumes from Stratfood St Mary In the end there was 4 OB on the river trip.
There was Liz, Anna me & John with his daughter Claire, so 5 of us over 4 OB’s. We set off about 10am to the Flumes in some amazing summer Sun 23c stopping there for some lunch. Anna had a fun play in the Flumes but there was not much water so, I had a look & spun into the eddy with no room to move so just let the OB drift downstream.

We met a gentleman with a yellow sea kayak on the river it looked like he was exploring the UK he said that tomorrow he would be out on the tide estuary.

All of this time we had been keeping our distances because of covid-19

Submitted by Mark B 270620

Medway OB Trip Friday 26th June 2020

On Friday 26th June three of us spent the day in glorious weather exploring part of the Medway River from Yalding ME18 6HG in open boats. Upstream towards Tonbridge, there was 4 locks we had to portage around.
With stopping for a well-deserved rest putting the world to right over lunch. On the way back we mett swimmers, families enjoying the sun & so on.
The bonus was we did not need to portage the OB’s on the way back.
So with Mike showing the way it is done he shot the slide at the first lock, the second slide me & Chris took the lead in my OB with Chris at the front.
When we reached the lock next to the “The War & Peace Revival” centre me & Chris as the water deflector we made it down the slide with about 2″ of water flooding my OB.BUT the one time I did not get out my camera to film Mike on the slide, we wished I had.Mike shot the slide like a ballerina would do a graceful move but as he hit the bottom his OB just rolled over with Mike going down with his ship.

Submitted by Mark B 260620

British Canoeing white water leader qualification

This was written by Ian S White he is also a member of Regents Canoe Club.

Five years ago, I did the 4* training with coach Dan Daley, which has now evolved into the White Water Leader award.  That was when British Canoeing was the British Canoe Union and personal skills were measured in * awards from 1* to 5* with five being the highest achievement.  The award is split into two parts – two days of training and two days of assessment.  

Due to incessant procrastination, work, house refurbishment and a desire to go kayaking in my spare time, I never made time to take the assessment.  

The training accreditation expires after three years, so I had to redo the training as well as do the assessment.  

Fast forward to May 2019, Steffi and I (Oh, I mustn’t forget Olga too) were paddling with Dan Daley on the beautiful Soca river in Slovenia.  This is something we do every years with Dan who now has his own outdoor training company ,Rock The Boat , which he started after leaving his job as head of paddlesport at Lee Valley.  As well as being a great guy, Dan is a terrific coach and we both enjoy his ability to impart his skills and knowledge.  Dan asked me to lead on a section on the Soca called Srpenica 2 ,which is a grade 3 section ,although it was running at about 40 cumecs which made it feel like a grade 4.

After this section Dan asked me if I had ever taken the 4* assessment which I said I hadn’t.  Dan said that I really should do it.  He was right of course and the fact that I hadn’t really irked me.  Over the next few months, whilst still being really busy, I resolved to complete the task.  However, there are certain pre-requisites that have to be in place.  Firstly you have to have the 3* White Water certificate or the current equivalent plus an outdoor 16 hours First Aid certificate and a two day White Water Safety and Rescue certificate.  I had done the advanced White Water Safety and Rescue course with Darren Joy of Fluid Skills in March 2019.  I had passed the 3* many years ago.  That just left the First Aid to be completed.  Mine had just expired-they last for three years.  Cue Ben Ainsworth’s email about running a First Aid course at the club in October 2019.  I signed up immediately.  Ian Scott (Scotty) ran day one of the First Aid course.  He was complaining of a sore knee when we met in the morning, which expanded in size as the day progressed.  It was very swollen.  Day two was postponed due to a diagnosis from the A&E department at his local hospital on the way home from day one.  The rescheduled date in was in January 2020.  Day two finished with a certificate ,so I was now ready to do the training and assessment.  

Coach, Dave Kohn-Hollins, of River Flair was advertising a White Water Leader assessment on the 22nd/23rd February 2020.  However, I needed to redo the training before I could do the assessment.  Dave was able to squeeze me into his busy schedule on the 30th/31st January 2020.  Ruth Hughes and her Machno came too.  Prior to this, I had printed off three things from the BC website.  Just to confuse you, there are two BC websites.  You need the awarding body website which has the following: 

  1. Syllabus
  2. Course notes
  3. Assessor notes

This will give you all you need to know about what is expected of you and what the assessor will be looking for or asking you to do during the course.  The training was based in Llangollen.

I stayed at the Llangollen hostel which is opposite the cafe that we were due to rendezvous at in the morning.  Cafe latte accompanied a chat with Dave about the things we need to take into consideration when leading a river trip.  After this we met our “tourists” who were the paddlers we were to take down the river.  After resolving the”forgotten helmet” issue (I think Regents have caught this virus) we got on at the Upper Dee section and made our way down to Horseshoe Falls with Ruth leading.  I took over at Horseshoe Falls while Ruth and I discussed whether we should or should not run the weir.  Was it within our remit?  Can we see a safe line?  Are the “tourists” good enough paddlers to make it? We discussed our findings with Dave and he was okay with our decision to run it and our decision making process.  Next was Serpent’s Tail.  We broke out above and took the “tourists” to have a look at the feature. I was happy that the ability of the “tourists” matched the technicality of the feature and they all agreed and wanted to paddle it.  We got off at Mile End Mill after one small swim at Serpent’s tail.

Day two – just Dave, me and Ruth.  We paddled from Llangollen to Trevor while practicing leadership and boat rescue techniques while being amazed at the huge viaduct and aqueduct that cross the Dee.

White water Leadership Assessment, North Wales

 An email had been sent to me and the others being assessed, asking us to prepare a list of rivers to run with our “tourists”.  The backdrop to this was that North Wales had been deluged with huge rain fall for the past week/month.  Every river/catchment area had a flood warning and the A5 road at Corwen bridge had flooded. The river was about a quarter of a mile wide as it tried to squeeze its bloated self through the confines of the bridge. It managed to find a gap under a gate, two fields away from the river to flood the busy A5.

I again stayed at the Llangollen Hostel which was much busier than last time ,as it was the weekend. I shared a room with three others, one of which, looked very melancholy. A brief chat revealed all. His girlfriend had kicked him out of their home,which he shared with her and the baby, after he got drunk and smashed up the car.He had been arrested for DD and was due in court in two weeks.  No girlfriend,no home,no car, no license,no job and probably a fine. And there was I, dealing with the concerns of whether I could deliver a safe river to paddle. It seemed so trivial in comparison. Before I left,I wished my sorrowful roommate the best of luck for the future. Surely,life could only get better from now on.

I had an idea.  We were to meet at the Rhug (pronounced” rhig” in Welsh)Estate Cafe.  This is where they have a metal bison sculpture beside the A5 .The river Alwen is nearby and the get off is next to the Rhug Estate.  Early in the morning, before the meeting, I went to check the get on and get off.  At the get on, the water was running through that trees on the bank!  At the get off, the water coming through the bridge’s arches sounded like a steam train at full speed.  Maybe not the best choice.  I was clean out of ideas.

One of the possible venues was the Tryweryn.  The dam normally release at 9 cumecs.  Today it was releasing at 16.  If you add in the water from the tributaries, it was expected to be 30 cumecs at Bala Mill.  I couldn’t see that this was viable either.

I met Christ Eastabrook (assessor) and the other two people to be assessed plus the “tourists”.  Chris was interested in our plans but he decided that we should paddle the Tryweryn.  So we jumped into our cars and made the 40 minute drive to the T.  We got changed and went to look at Chapel Falls.  Wow!  It was  bigger than I have ever seen it and a definite class 4 rapid. I could see a line but not one which I could lead some inexperienced paddlers down. We got on below.  

I had three “tourists” – Mark, Charlotte and Paula.  Mark had been paddling two years and was very good.  Paula was a decent paddler but her nerves were shredded as she had previously been caught in a tree on the Tryweryn.  It didn’t settle her nerves seeing Chapel falls and now she was about to paddle the river at nearly twice the volume .

Charlotte was the least experienced, nervous and wobbly. All three of my “tourists” we’re really nice and I did my best to put them at ease before getting on with an Ian White warm up and stretch. I was hoping that we could use the get on section to do a few warm up ferry glides to and from the eddy. I broke out and went to have a look at the eddy on the other bank. Looking downstream I saw a tree trunk at the bottom of the eddy where it joined the flow. Anyone taking a swim here after an eddy line wobble would be under that tree. That would be a very bad start. I signalled “all down”.

 I had a great time.  The river is great fun at this level, far better than I could have hoped for.  We did have a couple of swims in my group but swimmer and kit were reunited and we paddled to the road bridge where the “tourists” got off (except Mark).  We blasted down to the get off at the car park, missing out Bala Mill Falls.  

Day two – no “tourists” today.  Met Dave Kohn-Hollins at the Siobod Cafe at Capel Curig to discuss our options.  A two river day – the Glaslyn followed by the Llugwy.  Mount Snowdon feeds Llyn Dinas which is a lake which feeds the  grade 2 section of the river Glaslyn. We all took turns to lead on the Glaslyn with Dave assessing our leadership abilities and styles.  We got off before the Aberglaslyn gorge, which is spectacular at these levels.

 Back to Capel Curig to run the Llugwy where we did three different rescue scenarios (1)broken arm (2)dislocated shoulder (3)unconscious paddler.  When it was my turn to fall in, I was the unconscious paddler.  I really felt sorry for the other two who had to get my 18 stone carcass to the riverbank and then haul it up onto dry land while I was motionless.  I am waiting for an Oscar nomination.  

Got off at Forestry Falls and then back to the Siobod Cafe for a debrief ,coffee and cake.  Dave gave me some excellent and valid feedback with the news that I had passed.  


Stay at Home Online Camp

With everyone unable to go out, going stir crazy at home, a plan was hatched to do a club garden camp on Saturday 11th of April. Using the club group Messenger chatter page to share pictures and live chat. Here are some pictures pulled from said Chatter page.

Stay Home this will pass.

Pictures from A cheeky Monday sea paddle

A quick message from Mike on the trip info chatter, saying “anyone up for a paddle on Monday”? Anna was off work and so was I, rude not to!

Pictures from the March club paddle at Old Felixstowe

Pictures from the Pre-Blackwater tour clear up

Pictures from The burn the pudding off paddle.

River Stour. Nayland to Catterwade 5th Jan 2020