Safety story – I thought I’d share this safety lesson with you, which happened to me on a recent trip. Firstly, I wasn’t kayaking, however, the lesson learnt will still apply as it involves open water. I was sailing with a friend, each in our own boat. I had my usual kit with me; first aid, repair kit, food and drink, and a spare top. I also had my mobile phone, radio and electronic light flare all neatly stowed in the cocktail cabinet on my boat. I was wearing a dry suit and woolly hat and bright red BA. So, with wind weather and tides all duly noted, I would say I was prepared for the water. Having been out sailing for several hours we were heading home. The wind had picked up a bit but nothing untoward and well within our capabilities. My friend was the lead boat, he tacked and headed off on a new course, so was heading away from me. I unfortunately was pushing my boat a little, until I slipped and fell off the back of the boat, snapping my tiller in the process. The boat flattened out and sailed off up the estuary at great speed. I was now in the main tidal flow on an ebbing spring tide. No radio, no flare and with the slight chop on the water, I was now invisible. Eventually my fellow sailor realized I was missing, and after scanning the water came and rescued me. We then went in search of my boat. My rescuer said he could barely hear me and it was my splashing which drew his attention to me. Also, when he did hear me, it was hard to detect from which direction my voice was coming from. So apart from broken tiller and a bruised pride, no real drama but, on reflection it could have gone very wrong and been very serious, resulting in hypothermia or a drowning.
What I did right – I was wearing appropriate clothing – I was warm, I didn’t panic, I didn’t wear myself out, I kept my broken tiller in order to help me make as much splashing as I could when I thought my sailing partner was looking my way. I had also worked out the best place to swim out of the main tidal stream, should I have had to.
What I did wrong – falling off the boat aside, I should have had my radio on my person. I should have had my flare on my person. Having it on the boat was a complete waste of time. *My sailing partner had his radio on him but not turned on. Finally, we had been on a long trip and got complacent with one another’s abilities. We were on our last leg home, the wind had picked up and we were having a blast! Visual safety checks had become less frequent.
*My sailing partner said that normally he would have his radio turned on but as the weather was so calm, thought he would just have it for emergency, (this was also my opinion.) In hindsight, its not always your emergency that is the issue.Further, if I had used my whistle he may have heard/located me quicker. ( My whistle was in my other BA!)
Lesson learnt – So, if you have a radio, wear it, turn it on and do a radio check to make sure its working. If you have a flare make sure its on your person. If you have a whistle, make sure its loud. And make sure if you are out with a friend, they do the same.
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!
The Boys (and Girls) are back in town – Woolacombe Surf weekend May bank Holiday 2019.
Woolacombe Surfing was a very well attended event, with soloist’s and family groups all camping, drinking, eating, sight seeing and of course surfin’ including a lone board surfer! The weather was really kind to us, shorts and T shirt for the very brave, and for the water babies, wet suits and cheesy grins all round. The waves were averaging 3 – 4 foot with the odd big ‘un (well they looked big to me – I will call these paddle faster waves.) Pictures of the weekend will be on the Blog page in due course. Many of club members have already booked for next year. Saturday night saw us all BBQing and smoking out the Andies tent (Andy and Andie were camping next to one another and as I type this, it really reads wrong! Anyway here’s a group shot of the happy campers
Yes 3 photos because some of us weren’t paying attention – eyes shut, looking the wrong way, camera shy? or just mucking around! A really enjoyable weekend was had by all. So next year, rather than stay at home digging your roses for the bank holiday, try surfing instead!
It was windy, very windy. As I was unloading my open boat and pushing under the fence at Hoe Mill lock the telegraph pole I was standing beside shook violently, followed by a big cracking sound, and a tree, 30 feet from me fell down , blocking the whole road. Wow, so pleased I wasn’t standing beside that, or that my van wasn’t under it. 10 minutes later the rest of the Open boaters started to arrive and all parked under very old trees, and after a quick rethink, the penny dropped and then they re parked away from the trees. Happy bunnies. James and I went two up in my OB, and Barry and Kevin R, the die hards, paddled solo – oh regret on their behalf.
Lets say that the desired direction of travel and side of the river wasn’t always happening due to the very strong F6 – F8! winds. Serious boat trimming went on amongst our solo paddlers.
The intrepid duo didn’t suffer half as much. Somewhere along the way Barry got out and walked, then paddled. Kevin moored up and joined Barry, and later Barry Kevin and James all joined together and then James went solo, Kevin joined with John, Barry was on his loansome.
Hope you’re keeping up with this. Rushes Weir came into sight and after a quick play in the wier, we had a break.
It was then Sail paddles up and away we went back to Hoe Mill. James and I took off at a great pace with the wind filling the sail paddle.
Kevin had varying degrees of success, although appeared to be scooping more water than wind. Eventually Barry and Kevin rafted up and they managed to get going under sail.
Getting back to Hoe Mill didn’t take long at all. Really good fun in seriously windy conditions, this was followed by a pint in the pub afterwards. Thanks to my fellow paddlers, James, Barry and Kevin R.
Having joined Bramston Canoe Club in September last year, I
had been attending regular Monday night pool sessions, patiently waiting for my
first trip out in the wild. As it happened, this turned out to be the post AGM
sea paddle last Sunday.
I had been planning for this trip for the past few weeks,
and steadily building up paddling kit since the start of the New Year.
The weather was not ideal for my first ever paddle, let alone sea paddle, and was cloudy, windy, wet and cold. I had been watching the weather, and the wind was blowing from the W NW, force 5, gusting to force 7. I had a feeling that this was not going to be a ‘walk-in-the-park’ or indeed a ‘paddle-on-a-pond’!
So at 09:00 hours, I set off from my home in Chelmsford, to
the Marconi Sailing Club in Steeple, which was the chosen venue for my
inaugural BCC Annual General Meeting, and later on, first ever paddle. I
arrived at 09:45, on time for the start of the meeting at 10:00 hours.
The meeting was well attended, and after a productive few
hours putting the World, or rather ‘BCC Business’ to rights, the time had come
for me to finally earn my kayaking ‘dolphins’.
I returned to my car to collect my plethora of newly
acquired kayaking kit, which I lugged back to the club house to get changed (whilst
thinking ‘I must find a better system for carrying all this gear!’). After
climbing into my giant thermal Babygro, getting into my clearly brand new
drysuit and donning my buoyancy aid and spray deck, I was ready to go kayaking!
I was greeted at the launching point by Barry, Kevin, John, Andy E, Steve, James W, Mike D, Andy B and Liz who were all looking excited and raring to go.
After a quick safety briefing, Barry and Kevin explained what would be happening and where we would be going. The plan was for a crossing from the Sailing Club to the South shore of Osea Island, followed by a circumnavigation, a quick cuppa stop, and then a passage back to the Sailing Club and dry land.
As I got into my boat, and Kevin helped me to secure my
spray deck, I could feel my excitement, and anxiety building. I was about to
embark on my first ever sea kayaking trip! Barry pushed me carefully into the
rising tide, and I was away. The prevailing wind was making the conditions
rather ‘lumpy’ and it took me a while to relax and start breathing properly.
Barry was talking to me the whole time, and before I realised it, we were halfway
through the initial crossing to Osea Island. After adjusting to the rising and
falling motion of the waves, I was now starting to rather enjoy the feeling of
bobbing up and down.
We were soon approaching the South shore of Osea, and I was informed by Barry that we would be ‘hand-railing’ around the shoreline. As I looked back into the distance, towards where we had launched, I felt rather chuffed with myself that I’d managed to get all the way across and had remained ‘right-way-up’.
As we made our way along the coastline, everyone was giving
me useful advice, and making sure I was okay. As I had already come to know,
the friendship and camaraderie of BCC was second-to-none!
Before long we approached the West end of Osea Island and it was here that I was about to learn why a ‘drysuit’ was called a drysuit! As I tried to turn my boat to continue around the island, the wind caught me, and over I went!
My weeks of pool training paid off, and whilst capsized I followed
the drill and banged loudly on the bottom of my boat three times, proceeded to
run both my hands either side of the boat waiting for my rescuer’s boat to
brush my hands for a ‘T’ rescue. After I could hold my breath no longer, I
realised that I was on my own and promptly pulled my deck, rolled forward and
exited the boat.
Seconds later I bobbed up to the surface to be greeted by a smiling Kevin who had come to my rescue. He had been trying his best to get to me, but the wind had unfortunately hindered his progress.
After Kevin had bailed out my boat, and I had a couple of
attempts at trying to re-enter my boat, I was back in, and soon continuing on
my way. I had to get wet sometime, and it really wasn’t that bad. The drysuit
and buoyancy aid did their jobs admirably, as did the ‘wet exits’ I had
practiced many times in the pool training sessions.
We continued around the North shore of the island and were joined for a short period by a friendly seal who had come to check out the beginner kayaker, and see what all the commotion was about.
By this point we had been paddling for what must have been a couple of hours, and I was informed that we would soon be making a brief ‘tea’ stop at ‘East Point’ before our final approach back to Marconi Sailing Club. This was very welcome as my arms and legs were now starting to tire.
Tea & Ponchos
I trained my kayak close to the shoreline, and Liz who had already landed on the point, pulled me up onto the gravel bar and beached me. As I got out of my boat I grabbed my poncho, bread rolls and flask of tea from the rear hatch of my boat. It was so windy at this point that my poncho was flapping about like a Superhero’s cape (Kayak Man sprung to mind!), and James W came to assist me with securing the arm holes.
After enjoying my tea and rolls, we witnessed what must have been a few hundred geese flying over the mainland before packing away our ponchos and getting back into our boats for the final leg of our voyage.
I was now feeling refreshed, and ready to continue on my journey. The wind had dropped, and the waves calmed dramatically. By this point, the grey sky was starting to ‘blue-up’ and the sun just had time to make a brief appearance before starting to say goodbye for the day.
Back To Reality
As I paddled back across the channel to re-join the reality of a cold February Sunday afternoon, I reflected on what a thoroughly enjoyable, and inspiring day it had been. Great company, great scenery, great paddling and an experience that I will never forget!
Thank you to all the members of BCC that accompanied me on
this trip, and for your help and advice. Special thanks go to Barry for the
loan of his sea boat, his guidance and patience, and Kevin for rescuing me
after my encounter with the river Blackwater’s finest!
I had been anxiously monitoring the weather report all the week before my first Bramston Winter Wild camp, and every time I checked, the forecast was worse than the time before. On the Wednesday, I received an email circular, saying that one of the kayak instructors in the area had cancelled his weekend course due to the predicted extreme weather conditions. I was beginning to think that our trip may not happen, but Bramston kayakers are made of sterner stuff, and on Friday it was confirmed that we would meet at the unearthly time of 6:30 am at Heybridge Basin, to be on the water at 7:00.
We loaded our kayaks in the dark, and finally got on the water at about 07:20, just as it was beginning to get light. Led by Barry, with Andy B, Andy E, James, Alan, Roger, and me. The forecasted rain wasn’t there, and we had a nice easy paddle along the Blackwater Estuary to sales Point, with a force 4 not interfering with our progress. The conditions did not however look good for the planned 4 mile open crossing to Colne Point, and we decided to finish for the day at our camp site.
Having pitched our tents, some of the team got to work collecting firewood, until it began to rain. This was actually welcome, as it gave us the excuse to go to bed for a couple of hours, and catch up on our lost sleep. Two hours later, the rain had stopped, we got up, had some lunch, and walked along the sea wall to St. Peter’s on the Wall chapel, and collected more firewood on the way back.
The wood was soaking wet, and I was very impressed by Barry and his helpers ability to get a fire going on the beach. Dinner was cooked, and eaten, followed by an evening of drinking beer, wine, and comparing the contents of each others hip flasks, and some much larger bottles. Sitting there in the dark, fire crackling away, with some good company, and a warm feeling inside me, I felt no urge to cross the water to my nice warm bed on Mersea Island. The tide came in, and got within about 3 feet of the fire, then receded, as we looked across at all the pretty lights illuminating the Mersea foreshore.
We had a good lay in on the Sunday morning, eventually cooking our breakfasts, then packing out boats ready for the return paddle. We got on the water for 1 O’clock, and the paddle back would be a completely different affair to the day before. The wind was blowing force 5, and gusting higher, straight from the west, and in our faces, with no chance of shelter from the shore. The high wind was also holding back the tide, which should have turned, and I must admit, it was a bit of a struggle for me, but Barry and James stayed with me, and we finally got to Osea Island at about 4:00 pm, just as it was getting dark. Although this was probably the slowest time ever recorded for this journey, it didn’t matter, as we still had to wait up to 3 hours before the tide would be high enough to get back out at Heybridge Basin. However, Andy B had received a phone call to say that his daughter had been injured and was on her way to hospital, so he, accompanied by Roger, pressed on, and managed to find a way across the mud to the Heybridgeshore. Several hot drinks, and some food later, we decided that we would press on to Heybridge, and make alternative arrangements if the tide had not yet risen enough. The wind had now dropped quite a bit, making the night paddle back to Heybridge a highlight of the trip, with flocks of birds flying around us as we disturbed their resting spots on the water. When we got near to Heybridge, Mark, who driven all the way from Colchester, was waiting on the shore, and called us to say the water was high enough. The temperature on land was still a very warm for the time of year 15 deg C, and we were soon in the pub having a drink and discussing the events of the weekend.
Thanks to Barry for organizing and leading, and everyone else for their good company. I’m already looking forward to the next one!
Sunday saw Kevin, Barry, Liz and me having a play off of Old Felixstowe in the surf zone. It was a first time for Liz and me in this area. We were told that the surf would start off small and get bigger, in fact it was the other way round. Paddling beyond the sandbank finger saw us in a nice steady swell 6 – 9ft at a guess, boats were disappearing in between the troughs, so enough to practice on and get the adrenalin flowing, at least for me. After a while I took a break on the shingle sand bank at the mouth of the Debden. Very interesting to watch the surf line change by the minute as the tide turned. Very fast flowing volume of water. Anyway, the pictures don’t do it justice, but it was really good practice. Zoom in on the photos to get a better look.
…..”When it started with 2 metre high waves, I was thinking bloody Hell! How high will they be when it get’s big. Definitely an interesting place to paddle. Had some fun trying the deep diggity dig at the end” …Liz
After a lot of chat on FB messenger on the lead up to the weekend three of us decided to paddle from Bradwell to Colne Point. The wind and tide wasn’t going to be in our favour SE F4 and an ebb tide helped us along our way.
We made excellent progress but were very aware of the strengthening wind and the increasing swell, so decided to paddle until the tide turned (LW Bradwell 11:15), which put us in spitting distance of Colne Point!
Making our way back the swell had increased with 1 – 2′ waves and the relentless wind, however, we made really good progress. It was a lot of fun bashing through the waves, a couple of yacths decided to furl their sails and revert to motoring and a lone windsurfer was buzzing us going from Mersea Island to Sails Point at incredible speed.
We arrived at the entrance to Bradwell Marina, and since we had got there much earlier than expected decided to go around the baffle at the entrance only to spot a very angry looking pigeon sitting on the baffle top.
It turned out to be a perigrine Falcon, and he/she didn’t look very happy at us paddling in its hunting ground.
Going back into Bradwell Marina an unhappy yacthsman and his crew were well and truly grounded at the entrance, scratching their heads whilst waiting for the tide to fill in. Thanks to Adrian (MAD cc) and James for a great couple of hours on the water.
A mixed bunch of eleven kayakers from BCC, MAD, and Braintree CC set off from Dovercourt, Harwich to paddle the backwaters and see the seals. Leaving the north sea and entering a small inlet was like stepping/paddling into a different world, very quiet and serene. The tide carried us through the maze of waterways to the seals laire, big rusty beasties sunbathing on the mud.
The seal sightseeing boat came around a bend and stole our private veiwing of our blubbery friends, so it was onwards and forwards against a strong southerly wind F4, punching our way to the main channel to join the ranks of the sailing boats out enjoying themselves. Sorry no pictures of the seals as my camera lens got water on it and blurred the lot! We stopped off at Stone Point for lunch and watched the very strong tidal race play havoc with the big motor launches making their way to the Marina.
It was then time to make our way home, we paddled across the estuary to the sunken barges, avoiding the main tidal race and rejoined the North Sea. Eleven very happy kayakers would like to thank Barry I for organising this trip.