Do we go or do we stay?

We arrived to Portmagee and already we knew we would spent at least a day here. Camping was ok, short carry, two flat patches of ground between high water mark and a fence, most importantly just outside the town.

Already on arrival to Knights Town on Valentia Island we found out that due to cut cable internet was down in the majority of the county, fortunately we scraped enough cash to have dinner, leaving shopping for the next day. Days off could be as busy as paddling days. Pleasure first, that was a nice breakfast, then duties. We had to hitchhike to Carsiveen to withdraw money and do shopping. However they had a leisure centre, so long soak in the pool, jacuzzi, and shower was great, followed by more coffee and ice cream later. Even if we had to hitch back again, it all went ok.

Portmagee used to be a small fishing village, now it’s a gateway to Skellig Michael. The place from Starwars as known to most people. The island where monks lived in beehive huts for others. We settled for local sights.

The following day we had to make decision to paddle or not. The wind looked all over the place, the swell being blown up by day of high winds. We had cliffs to paddle past, then long crossing towards Dursey Island. Go or not to go. What will we gain by going, maybe ten kilometres past the cliffs. We probably won’t be crossing. But would we be able to paddle the following day, when the forecast is still showing as being unsettled. Some of us wanted to go, some not, the decision process can sometimes take time.

In the end we decided not to go, and spent the day exploring the Kerry Cliffs, from the land. Splendid, we could see as far as Great Blasket island, Puffing Island, and Skellig Michael with Little Skellig in the background. And of course we could see the whole area of Portmagee sound with Valentia Island. And no, is does not derive its name from Spanish town of Valencia, it comes from Irish and means “island in the mouth of the sound”, and that’s exactly what it is.

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LONG WAY

If you were to drive from Inishturk to Kilbaha, it would take according to Google about four hours and distance of at least 267 kilometres. It would also require taking a ferry from Inishturk to Ronagh Quay, and to go on few motorways. If one was to walk this route it would be about 206 kilometres, with one ferry to Ronagh Quay, and then one from Rosaweer to Inishveer and from Inisheer to Doolin. We did go from Inishturk to Kilbaha, however obviously not by land but by sea. I don’t know how many kilometres that really was, yet it seemed to be a long way over few days.

We left Inishturk after nice evening in local community centre. We liked Inishturk, it has been inhabited since early times. We stopped in the harbour of Port an Dun, a natural harbour used by first settlers and many after. During our stay here we met here a group of people from Inishbofin, who liked it here as well and came for a day trip. They told us that if we were to pass Inishturk on our way south, we should stop for tea in their house by the flagpole.

We paddled over to a Inishbofin and indeed happen to land next to a flag pole, which actually ended up being the flag pole. We visited Rachel and Malcolm, who live here, and their friends. What a great stop this was, Lindsey got tea, and ai got coffee. They also came to help us with the boats as tide was running out of the bay quickly. We were quite worried about having to carry them long way after our stop, so declined any offers of longer stay, so

Rachel prepared cheese sandwiches for us, all wrapped up for our long journey. We launched, waved, turned around the first set of rocks, and once out of view ate them all at once.

The sandwiches were so loaded and delicious that they gave us enough power to cross straight to Slyne Head, one of the many headlands on our way south. The day turned hot to the point that at lunchtime I couldn’t resist a swim, the sandy bay just looked too inviting. We continued further, we were on a mission. Rachel told us about the most amazing banana cake to be had on Inishmaan, and we wanted that. We flew past Connemara, made a brief overnight stop, and next day crossed to Aran Isles. Our plan was to lunch on the first one, have cake on the middle one, and perhaps quick stop on the smallest one. However, we ended up staying on Inishmaan, the middle one. Two days Lindsey and I were entertaining ourselves with the idea of banana cake on Inishmaan, it helped us to paddle late into the evening, to cross, to continue to the east of Inishmaan.

Only when we landed we found out that the cake shop up is shut on Thursdays. Never mind, at least we were in good position to cross the following day towards the cliffs of Moher and beyond.

Cliffs of Moher, up to 214 metres high, but we didn’t see any of that starting our crossing on a bearing only due to fog. The day was long, we passed the cliffs, crossed several bays, passed Morton Island. That one had a impressive napoleonic lookout tower on. Our landing wasn’t the most exciting one, but in the end the steep single wall provided straightforward haul of the boats up beyond high water mark, and launch, and in the end the shingles once we removed the big boulders were quite comfortable to sleep on.

Our next and final leg of this mission was today. We wanted to get around Loop Head ready for Shannon the following day. According to Oileáin, the Irish Sea kayaking guidebook, this stretch is the most committing one on the West coast. Yes, it looked like tens of kilometres of cliffs with a headland at the end. And for us, the weather had something special, it decided we have to do it on a bearing mainly hiding the cliffs behind low clouds. At the start especially, then they were appearing and disappearing until the head itself.

On the other side it was different story, swelly turbulent sea was replaced by smooth waters, clouds by sunshine. We pushed all the way to Kilbaha mainly for its name, but the promise of a pub, too. It is time for tea and coffee after all.

270°

Two hundreds and seventy degrees. Two hundred, according to definition is ten more than one hundred ninety while seventy is a number equivalent to the product of seven and ten, or ten less than eighty. For us it was simply the direction that my compass was showing over the past few paddling days.

It was 270 when I was towing Lindsey across the Lough Swilly into headwind and swell, so her boat keeps only twenty metres behind mine. The wind was pushing us more and more into the bay while we were trying to reach the Fanad Headland.

It was 270 when we were paddling again few days later towards Horn Head, and impressive headland with cliffs as high as 180 metres above the sea. The direction was pointing straight at the small incline in the cliff, which I chosen as my wee stop. It didn’t disappoint, it was there, and even sheltered enough from swell. Here Head was spectacular, birds, cliffs, waves, but fortunately now tideraces running. True is, we enjoyed two hours lunch while waiting for tide and swell to die down a little bit. On top of the cliff we can see a look out tower, and ai must say these towers are piece of art, built in napoleonic era.

It was 270 when we continued to island of Inishbofin (Innis Bo Finne) a small island once inhabited. It was very hot as we were approaching the island. Hot to the point that we had to take off the tops of our dry suit (don’t try this at home) in order to reach it and not to explode in the heath. That was fine for me, but a real first for Zoe.

People left here by the 1970’s and now only few come back for the summer. However here we got a nice flat grass for our tents, the church was open and had toilets!. We met the islands only artist, some fishermen and one former resident. He invited us into the village hall to show us pictures of himself as a very young man, then some of his neighbours.

Next our journey was towards a distant headland stretching far and long in the distance. It’s name was Bloody Foreland. It was 270 degrees to go to Bloody Foreland. When I looked at amp of Ireland and saw how far this point is, I thought, yeah, what a name. As we started to paddle to it, it seemed endless, so the name bloody seemed appropriate even more. Of course the name was here before us, and apparently the name but after that our direction slightly changed. Bloody Foreland gained it’s name from its rock colour which in evening sun is illuminated in red shades. That’s not what we saw.

For us this headland was significant in other way, too, as after rounding it our compass started to show other directions than west only. Bloody Foreland was our gateway to the west coast.

We paddled past the Gweedore coast and it’s many islands, Inishmeane, Gola, Owey until we ended on Cruit in close distance to golf club bar, open to non-golfers.

WILD ATLANTIC WAY – FANAD HEAD

If week one saw us paddling every day, week two seems to be a week of being weather bound. It might slow our progress but gives us opportunity to explore the unknown. First we stayed a day at Tullah Bay on Inishowen Peninsula and walked over to the village of Clonmany, known as the Cross as it is built on cross roads and in the past being a centre of the illegal poitín distillation industry. To us is known as the village of many pubs, we counted about six within one short street, as well as Tag of War club. Which apparently has been quite successful in its history of existence and won six world medals and many All Ireland titles. Lovely place with historic churches and waterfalls.

We left Tullah Bay the following afternoon when the weather forecast suggested break in the wind. Still the headwind was quite strong and made our crossing from Dunaff Head over to Fanad Head across Lough Swilly entertaining by swell and wind. Lough Swilly, glacial fjord, and our gateway to county Donegal. We crossed and wanted to finish on the beach we watched every minute of the crossing. The beach was beautiful as beaches go, yellow sand, green grass high on the hill, whitewashed boulders, little stream going into the sea. However there wasn’t any chance to fit even one tent on anywhere. Still, we got our trolley and moved the boats above high water mark, looked around, but soon we were facing a decision. To stay and make it somewhere work, or to move on, as we could be here for few nights than just one.

Even the impressive view of the Fanad Lighthouse didn’t persuade us to stay. After quick snack, trolley dismantled back in the boat, luckily water was coming in, we got the boats back on the water in search of better place. Which could mean another 10 – 15 kilometres. The swell was playful, there and now a wave would wash over one of us and give us salty bath, surf was breaking heavily on the shallows along the shore.

Finally we spotted a sheltered corner of a large bay. Dunes, car park, we decided to stay.

Fanad Lighthouse stood on the cliff in its white glory. Built in 1815 and first lit in 1817, it was occupied by lighthouse keepers until automated in 1983. Fanad Head a strategic place at Lough Swilly, the lighthouse was originally built as a sea light rather than one indicating save passage into the lough’s natural harbour. And since the weather decided we would have few non paddling days, I went to see it. Two accidental events took place here today, first I was sold a tour of the lighthouse which I haven’t intend d to do first, but why not. It’s not very often one can visit working lighthouses, the last one I saw was on Flatey in North Iceland. It was interesting to see the difference in the size of bulbs used to light the lighthouse in the past and nowadays.

The lighthouse tower is 22 metres high from its foundation to the top not including the lantern. The light is 39 metres above sea level and there are 79 steps in the tower.

Second accident was bumping into Geoff from London, whom I last saw in Jersey three weeks ago. Which was great because I could get a picture taken.

A Sense of Déjà Vu

We reached Ballygally, and it’s great we did. Originally we thought we would stop just a village before, at the end of the north corner of Larne bay, it had a beach, take away van with coffee and apparently a campsite, too. However eventually we decided to give it one last push around the corner. Ballygally, little did we know it played its part in Game of Thrones, as none of us had ever seen a single episode. Ballygally had slipway, car park with very flat patch of grass, castle hotel with coffee, and later we discovered a great pub called Mattie’s a mile up the road. What’s more in the hotel they had the door. The door, which apparently were shown in the Game of Thrones. Something we didn’t know, so we didn’t take any pictures of it to show. We only learnt about its importance the following day.

The following day we got up early to catch the tide assistance to help us with progress against the strong headwind. We managed ten kilometres, and that was good distance considering Lindsey is still quite new to long sea kayak journeys in various conditions. But eventually it became clear we had to land and finish for the day. We did so in another harbour around another corner. And when we walked up the slipway I had a sense of being here before. Yes, I recognised the old marina building in front of which, seven years ago, Michal and I set up our tent on a concrete. We were on our trip round Britain, got to Northern Ireland, and without map didn’t really know about the coast. We stayed a night in this grey, fairly derelict town with one weird pub (https://homeseahome.com/2012/05/29/islands-hopping/).

Surprise surprise here I was again. Yet, this time things were to be different. Firstly, we found public bathrooms next to an information centre. And as we stood in front of them contemplating what to do next, a lady came out and invited us in for cups of tea and coffee. We now know her name was Christine, she set table and chairs in the middle if the small centre, and got to preparing our drinks while filling us and anyone else, who came in, on information about the place. For example we found out about The doors, about ten of them. We now missed most, but one is still attainable, it’s in Cushendun, which will be on our way up.

When two other ladies came in wondering where they could get coffee, Christine holding just boiled kettle over our cups said “not here, there’s a posh coffee shop in the castle”. We stayed for few hours as time passes quickly once one is back on land. Eventually we walked away with the following: information about the village, arranged storage place for Zoe’s kayak, arranged lift for Zoe to Belfast in the morning, and a rental house for the next 2 nights.

So, we decided to stay in Glenarm until Friday, when the weather should become friendlier. The village shows signs of being a very busy prosperous town back at the turn of 19/20 century with grand houses. It also has a castle, lovely woodland, two pubs, and newly opened little shop. Somehow it also has planters made from old kayaks, this definitely wasn’t here seven years ago.

On top of that the place around the harbour is now covered in grass and flowers rather than concrete like before.

MICHAL’S TRIP TO ALASKA

Unlike previous sports we both have engaged in, when it came to sea kayaking, Michal and I started to do this together from the same starting line. However, it soon became clear that our ways of learning differ. Michal is much better at learning anything about movements, he can only hear about it, or see it, picture it, which leads to him being able to do it. Obviously most annoyingly for me I need to do all these three, then practice for long time, and then, maybe, I would get it.

We have shared stories from our trips together here on the blog, we have done journeys shorter and longer. Thank to Michal’s constant need to look for challenges, to get excited about an idea,  his strong desire to execute it, it meant that we have spent significant time paddling in various environments and conditions.

This time, it happened that we took different approach. I thought it would be great idea to join someone else in their trip, and somehow, both me and Freya thought it would be even better idea, if Michal does so, too.

So there he is, paddling in Alaska with Freya Hoffmeister on a trip different to our usual ones. And here are the notes that he managed to send me from different legs as their internet access allowed.

Michal left London on the 21st of June and he and Freya met in Chignik, a little place, where she finished her previous leg with Catriona Woods.

flight

Over to Michal:

ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS THE SAME EVERYWHERE, RIGHT? Saturday 23.06.18

chignik airport

“Today’s highlight was a bit of a language barrier. Freya was worried she would not find the right gas canisters for her stove here in Chignik, so she asked me to bring my multi fuel one.

We were very lucky and were looked after by locals, Clyde, who runs Trident Seafood was really helpful the whole day, trying to source out everything we needed prior our departure, including the epoxy to fix both of Freya’s kayaks.

However, when it came to fuel, everyone seamed to be quite confused.“Petrol? What do you mean? What’s that? Fuel, what fuel? Do you mean kerosine?” After a while we established that cars use diesel and gas. So we asked if it would be possible to have some gas.

It turned out we could, but not before we were told how flammable it really is, and how careful we needed to be. So I brought my petrol bottles and started to fill up the first one from metal canister Clyde showed me.  Lupe came to assist, and  again, while he was helping me with filling of our bottles,  we went through a long discussion about how dangerous and flammable this stuff was. In the end I had to agree to try if it actually worked with our stove. Before I got on with it, I was pointed to fire extinguisher. After that, as a precaution,  I boiled some water for my flask in the middle of gravel car park,  and surprisingly it worked fine like with any other petrol before.

ALASKA IN A NUTSHELL Sunday 24.06.18

Finally, it was time to leave. Boats were packed and floating on incoming tide. I was waiting for Freya to come. She went to make one more attempt to order epoxy resin to be sent ahead to Sand Point, our next port of call. Again with not much success. As soon as I arrived, we had kayak fixing day and used almost all remaining epoxy. Hope these kayaks wont need TLC too often.

Ready at last, I went to afloat first to make sure the kayak was to set up well for the journey ahead. I am using one of Freya’s kayaks, which is quite different to mine. Fortunately, everything was fine, and we could finally set off. After few paddling strokes I noticed something strange floating in front of us, sea otter! We haven’t even left Chignik and here was a Sea Otter. What a start!

sea otter.jpg

First few kilometres took us along cliffs on flat sea, and soon we started to cross Castle Bay, then we noticed spray of water in the distance. It was coming closer and a whale resurfaced. We haven’t even done ten kilometres and already I saw a number of sea otters and a whale, amazing.

We turned around Castel Rock, a stunning headland, I haven’t seen such overwhelming formation for ages, so we admired rocky structures, towers, gullies and faces until the  headwind picked up. Fortunately we could see a sandy beach ahead landed for lunch. This was my first introduction to what is means kayaking in bear territory.  Bear footprints everywhere and an old fridge washed on the beach was completely trashed by presumingly bear claws and paws. Fortunately, no bear in sight, otherwise I could say: “I’ve seen it all” and go home, now.

Soon after lunch headwind increased significantly and it was time we started to look for landing place. First beach didn’t look to good, yet Freya insisted it would be fine. We landed but it turned out, there was no space for  tent, we had to push another 7km to the next beach called Necessity Cove. Landing through damper went smoothly and soon we had the tent up on a stoney beach. One thing that I will have to get used to, is cooking outside. Apparently it is not a good idea to cook in your tent if there are bears around.

bear hand

GETTING TO KNOW MY NEW KAYAK   Monday 25.06.18

I woke up in the morning and first thing I heard was: “It’s raining, what do you think? Would you mind if we have a day off?” I don’t like rain so the answer was easy. “Ok,” I said and continued sleeping. Few hours later I could hear: “It’s not too bad shall we go?” What could I say, we are here to paddle in the end. One hour later we were on the water and paddling. While launching I was introduced to how to use a launching string. I never needed one on my kayak but seems quite essential to use with the rudder on Freya’s kayak. Anyway, soon we were making nice progress along the coast. It wasn’t raining too much, visibility was ok, just top of the cliffs were hidden in low laying clouds. As we were nearing big headland wind started to pick up and waves were getting increasingly bigger. Soon we hit area where the tide, swell and wind were all coming from different directions. Clapoties were reaching two meters and Freya put her buoyancy aid on. It was challenging paddle as I was still getting to know my kayak. Paddling with knees together like on the surfski in those conditions was quite new to me. We turned a corner and decided to head for the beach deeper in the bay rather than crossing and rounding another headland. We had lovely 40 mins run on following sea all the way to the beach. Well, it was rather bouldery wall with no place for camping. We tried hard. But no place for tent at all. It meant we had to go around the next headland and firstly into the wind. Luckily, in the end, it wasn’t that bad. Tide probably turned, sea became more regular. After we turned the corner it was decision time, which beach to head for? We chose place called Herring Lagoon as something containing a word lagoon in the name must be good place for landing, only, it meant another 12km crossing into the fog.

Eventually we reached steep stoney wall, damper wasn’t too horrible and we landed safely. After climbing to the top of the bouldery wall, on the other side of the spite, we could see why it’s called Lagoon. We didn’t cook dinner this time, Natchos and cheese dip were good enough. I almost feltasleep even before finishing eating.

ANOTHER FIRST – PADDLING WITH MUSIC      Tuesday 26.06.18

It was raining again. Everything was wet. But with the forecast for light following sea we had to go. I’m slowly learning what it means to pack quickly. First everything is packed in the tent, then getting changed to paddling gear, tent down, kayaks packed, and then finally, some oats with milk for breakfast while watching dumping surf.

Sea today was significantly smaller, it was still raining most off the day with no great visibility. Soon we started our first 14 km crossing of the day, Freya couldn’t find her paddling rhythm, which made her to switch her music on. With rain hitting my hat I couldn’t hear that much anyway. Suddenly there was big splash just next to me, a whale, only ten meters away! It came up once more and then disappeared. “You see!” said Freya “I told you. They like music.”

whale freya

Now we were paddling in St Kilda like landscape, huge headlands and islands with birds everywhere. Only difference were local puffins they have long white hair on the top of their heads. I hope I managed to take good enough photo. Soon we landed on small rocky beach on one of the islands, rest of the island looks really steep, like St Kilda, so we hope it’s bear free. We set our camp in heavy rain and decided to chance it and cook in the tent.

EATING FRUIT WHILE PADDLING? Another first     Wednesday 27.06.18

It wasn’t raining when we woke up. That was promising. When I got out of the tent I could see that we are on small island just across from Perryville. It didn’t look like much, just few buildings scattered around so we didn’t bother to paddle there.

Before we set off, we had to set time aside to prepare pineapples, yes we had two fresh pineapples with us. Mine was living in my helmet for three days. Now it was time to eat them. Freya cut them to stripes and filled few zip lock bags to be ready to eat on the water. pineapples

Few minutes into paddling the sun came out. As it shined through the clouds behind us sunlight just hitting a rock ahead, we could see an eagle siting on the top. My first eagle on this trip. Sun didn’t last long but eagles did. By the end of the day we saw six of them.

sea eagel

Soon it was drizzling and headwind became quite annoying. We were making progress between islands eating pineapples. When that wasn’t filling us enough we stopped on small sandy beach for lunch. There were bear and human footprints everywhere, we were not sure which were older and which more recent. Freya found round fishing buoy and we spent few minutes playing football to keep warm. In the afternoon we continued into the rain and wind.

football

I wouldn’t mind if we had a dry day for a change sometime soon. Beach, where we were planning to land, had noticeable surf. Fortunately we found a sheltered corner. And again bear footprints were everywhere. We pitched tent on the highest spot of the sand while it was still raining. There were patches of green plants around, I tor off some and placed them in the porch of the tent to reduce the amount of sand sticking to everything. Then it came: “You are very tidy, not messy at all. If you wouldn’t be married already, I would marry you!”

clean tent M      clean tent F

ANIMALS EVERYWHERE       Thursday 28.06. 18

It was raining hard all night.

Did I mention that I don’t like water? And rain is the worst kind of water. So you can imagine I wasn’t overwhelmingly enthusiastic to get ready. Fortunately as we started to pack, the rain almost stopped.

In Freya’s chart it said “large caves” by the headland in few kilometres. We were quite keen to see what it means. Two sea stacks could be seen just of the headland, when we rounded the second one, one its exposed side, we could see lots of holes and caves. It looked like Swiss cheese. We explored the biggest one, unfortunately due to the swell, we couldn’t visit any of the smaller ones.

Next, we had to cross a larger bay, about ten kilometres into the headwind. There is one thing that annoyed me today. Freya asked if we should cross straight for the headland, or if we should go deeper in, and stop on the beach. In the end we agreed to only have a break on water and not to bother with landing. Yet, when we crossed, Freya said: “I fancy to land on that beach, it’s not too far anyway “. Fine! – We had to paddle ten minutes into the wind to get to the beach and then paddle the same back after the break. Why could we just not paddle straight there, right from the beginning?

Anyway, when we rounded rocky headland there were dozens of Sea Lions on rocky ledges. Mostly female, roughly the size of ordinary seal, with one male between them. It was huge! At least twice the size of big Atlantic Grey Seal.

michal by freya.jpgPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

sea lions freyaAfter that we were paddling along the cliffs into the wind when Freya found a puffin. I mean there was a dead puffin in the water. The next second she was pulling it out with huge smile: “we need to take pictures “. She was shouting in the noise of wind and waves.

That’s not as simple as it looks. “Should I be kissing it? Or should it be on my shoulder? Do I look good? What about my hair? And hair band? I don’t like this hair band, it’s not black. Maybe we should take some on the beach, on the tent. I need to hold it this way. Do I look good?” This all was probably meant to me. And then she goes to puffin:”You will go on my website, you will be famous. Fifteen thousand people will see you…”

puffin 1   puffin 2

puffin 4  puffin 3After long photoshoot she paddled with the puffin all the way to the beach, put the tent up and did more photos with poor puffin. Who cares that there are bears around. I mean there are not just bear footprints on this beach, there is actually a bear walking up and down the same beach we are camping!

This time I cooked dinner outside, just in case. After we had eaten, I started to write down notes. When I finished writing and put my iPad down, I looked out through the open tent porch. Bear! There was a bear standing 20 meters from our tent! Of course, first we started to take pictures, but then as it was still coming closer, we began to make noise. Bear didn’t seem to mind, so I shot a banger.  Freya half jumped out of the tent shouting at the same time. That scared him, I mean Freya, he hardly noticed the bang! Hope that was enough of bear excitement for the rest of the trip.

bear in camp

banger

TACKLING MONSTERS        Friday 29.06. 18

We woke up into a drizzle. First thing Freya asked was: “Did you sleep well? No dreams about bears?” No, weirdly there were strange monkeys in my dream but not a single bear.

Launching was pretty straightforward, swell dropped a lot as predicted and we started paddling on almost flat sea. That was good because we were heading for Sand Point, which was over 60km away with 40km crossing to start with. Clouds were slowly lifting and we were chatting about kayak designs, forward paddling, and so on. Then a whale resurfaced just in front of us. It took ages before it started to go down giving me plenty of time to find my camera and take two pictures before it disappeared.

Slowly sun made it through the clouds and I realised that I was over dressed. Fortunately sea was like a mirror allowing me to take one layer off. It is actually quite fine to try to take drysuit with front entry off while siting in kayak. It took quite an effort to pull it over my head.

I think I mentioned before that Freya is paddling topless most of the time. I mean without PFD, she calls it topless paddling. And of course she believes this is best and most efficient way how to  paddle forward properly. PFD is too restrictive and you cannot rotate with one well enough, so it means your paddling is not good. And of course, if Freya believes in something, you hear about it, not all the time, just there and now, about five times a day, every day.

So, as I had my BA off I decided it was time to make her happy, and not to put it on again. I even called my PFD a monster when asked her to put it on my back deck. That made her day, I think.

Michal paddling by FPhoto by Freya Hoffmeister

We were making nice progress towards the first island insight with brief stops for snacks. Soon, we came across lovely landing spot with waterfall which was ideal for short pee brake. When we started to paddle again, headwind picked up, not too strong but annoying. For some reason Freya became slower and slower. Waiting for her to catch up was a bit irritating. At one moment, when she got next to me, she asked me to put my PFD back on again, apparently I’m too fast without one.

When we turned the corner and could almost see Sand Point, we spotted  a small boat on the horizon. It looked strange, definitely not like fishing boat. When it came close we waved and it turned and came all the way to us. It was actually a welcoming committee looking for us.

committee

They were really pleased to find us, gave us some fruity drinks, took some photos, had a chat and took off towards Sand Point to announce what time we would be there.

Last stretch was slow and took forever, we were paddling into the wind and sun. Eventually were made it to Sand Point.

sand point

Tina, Paul and few of their friends were waiting for us. Tina’s house is just by the water so it was fast to unload. We were taken full care off. Shower, washing machine, dinner, internet and even a beer for me.

kayak TLC

REST DAY   Saturday 30.06.18

Last night I managed to put my first post on FB. Internet is not fast here, it took ages to upload few photos. Then, I exchanged few messages with Natalie before falling asleep by midnight.

This morning we started with some kayak TLC. First we fully unpacked them and dried them as much as possible and left them in the sun. You see, we have a day off and it is sunny! Then we made it to Trident Shop to buy some epoxy. In between I even managed to talk to Natalie, internet is not that slow in the end.

Afternoon was all about sorting our food, shopping for more food, working on kayaks and trying to find some local contacts further along the coast, in Nelson Lagoon or Port Heiden ideally. Those might be crucial as most likely I would have to fly out from one of those, and if all goes well Natalie will have to fly in.

Then we were getting ready for dinner with glass of wine and beer respectively.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks great so we will be paddling.

Crossing to Scillies

I am organised, very organised. I have been working in a school for eleven years now, so my year starts every September and finishes every July. My holiday dates have been pre-planned for me for years in advance.  On the rare occasion, when I may not know, when they are, all I need to do, is to check the airline ticket prices, their double or triple hike is a clear give-away. To cope I learnt to plan and book early, in the end, it would be irresponsible to waste twelve weeks of holidays.
This has been true until the seventh of April of this year. The following two weeks were my Easter holidays, yet somehow I haven’t made plans, or only vague ones of skiing, or going to spa or something. Various reason made them to fall through, and I almost started to think that I have indeed allowed for two weeks of holidays to go to waste.
High pressure that settled over Britain in the first two weeks of April this year, proved me wrong. And I was reminded that sometimes not having firm plans and go with the flow and weather is the best. We took it on board and made the most of it. I broke another of my rules and routines of only doing long crossings as part of a multi day journey, when one is fit and mentally prepared.
But really, we could not not do it. As we woke up at home on Saturday morning post my last day of work, and checked the weather, it appeared: the thought. On Sunday, while continuing with checking the  weather, the thought slowly changed into a firm idea. On Monday midday it started to become a reality, we were packing, and leaving London towards South West.
On arrival to Cornwall we had two important tasks to do: have dinner and plot the crossing. The plan was simple. The starting hour friendly. The weather pleasant.
We left Sennen Cove at eight in the morning, passed the Longship Lighthouse rather quickly, and settled down into the  rhythm of stroke after stroke, which would eventually bring us to our target, the Isles of Scilly. DSCF2296DSCF2300
The day was clear and sunny, the swell was playful and we made it to St Mary’s one hour faster than we thought. And even if that meant that we were slightly more south than we could have been, it was fine. Landing at Bryher in the afternoon felt good, and the smell of wild garlick quickly cleared our lungs of any city smog. We made it, and felt happy and content.

In this mode we spent the rest of the five days on the islands. Deciding that we will only cross St Marry’s Road if we have to go back on the Scillonian we spent most days paddling on the west or  north side of the islands exploring Bryher, Tean, Tresco and only paddling as south as Samson. The lazy mood stayed and we spent a considerable amount of time on the land exploring the islands rather than just paddle and paddle from one to the next. DSCF2323
And although to go back, we had to take the Scillonian, sometimes changing ones believes is good.

Organising Women’s Sea kayak Festival – another side of paddling

This year is a busy year as we are again organizing the Women’s Sea kayak Festival in Devon. Did I ever think that I would be organizing a sea kayak festival? No, not really.

This summer it will be eight years since I started kayaking. I didn’t like it much at first. The sea was too unpredictable for me to be comfortable, the waves were more enemies than friends. Everyone was always faster, sitting in the boat hurt my knees, I used to be cold during lunchtimes in my wet suit and so on. I went to a few symposiums but it was hard to enjoy the paddling when everyone mostly wanted to push themselves, while I just hoped to survive. So why did I persevere? Thanks to my husband really, and his grand ideas I have become a sea kayaker. I ended up having a little bit of a fast track journey to become a kayaker, one who now doesn’t mind the environments, elements, and considers most waves to be friends.

And yes, I became a leader and coach, but organizing an event, that is a different league completely. Don’t you need to have a centre for a venue, kayaks to hire, and lots of skills to coach and oversee and organize; cars, minibuses, trailers would also be handy (even crucial!) as is having friends who can coach?

Yet, again the reality turned out different from my fears. I signed up to go to the Women’s Sea kayak Festival in Bute as a paddler but ended up coaching there the same year. It was a women’s only event, and it was so much fun. I went again the next year only to find out that the organizers wanted a break and decided not to run one the following year.

P3154670This was the moment when everyone thought: what a shame, while three of us thought: well, let’s give it a go. And so, in a year we learnt how to organize a paddling festival without having a centre and kayaks for hire, without a minibus, and some of us even without driving or a car, without being super coaches, or having connections or extensive network of kayaking friends. We literally made it on green meadow and I like to think that it was a successful event.

If not, we would not be doing it again. At the Women’s Sea kayak Festival female coaches are coaching female paddlers. It has a Man Crèche for redundant paddling partners, but yes, it is women only event.

What is special about our event is that it celebrates women coaches and their high level of skills and brilliant coaching, by no means is our festival meant for beginners or intromediate paddlers only.

It has a great atmosphere and supportive environment, where paddlers understand each other, especially when it comes to different needs and challenges that a female paddler sometimes faces. I hope that our women only event gives people opportunities to share stories, learn from each other and develop confidence, mostly on how to use wit and skill over strength.

What I like most is, that at the end of each day we all socialize together, when we sit down for dinner there isn’t a coaches’ only table, because everyone has something inspirational to tell and we all learn from each other.

I am looking forward to that this year again!

http://womensseakayakfestivaldevon.co.uk

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London has it all!

We’ve lived in London for many years now. When we moved here, we knew we were moving into the capital city and a very busy town with people, roads, tube, buildings, pavements and all. We also knew that London was on the river Thames, however, at that time, it didn’t have any significant meaning to us, because after all most capital cities we knew had a river, Paris with Seine, Prague has Vltava, no big deal at all.

It was only later, when the river became our almost second home, we understood its the importance in the past and nowadays. Then, one day, we realised something even more significant. London isn’t just an ordinary capital city of a country; London could be viewed as a Mecca for outdoor sport, or at least where water is considered.

For a sea kayaker the tidal river Thames is a great place to paddle, we wrote about this many times. The changing landscape due to tide, standing waves under bridges, surf behind boats, powerful workout against tide, and smooth rides with it, we have spent countless hours going up and down through London. It is always different and we can’t have enough. With the conditions varying from mirror flat to wild fast flowing and confused water with waves exceeding meter in high it is an amazing place to learn and improve. Learning is an interesting and complex process. There and now it is important to change ones’ approach and try something new, something different. In the end what could be better than trying and applying the existing skills through different concepts of paddling to explore new levels and then bring this back to the original discipline.

So what role does London play in all this? It is the choice of opportunities. The possibility to do white water canoeing, flatwater freestyle, tiderace paddling or playboating within few days and in close proximity to London.

P6260037P6260042White water OC in Lee Valley. 

13558787_10209965853292395_1197877465244621623_oP6280084 (1)Free style boaters at Shadwell Basin.

13603400_10209998273702885_6307197631366317922_o13528227_10209998275502930_5332193559667065624_oSelsey Bill tide race (2 hours from London)

_DSC0037_DSC0078Olympic course in Lee Valley. 

Last week, there could have been hardly a be better place to work on your paddling.

Old friend Harry

Summer has been coming to an end and I was desperate to get paddling to my favourite location of all, The Old Harry. Unashamedly I often say that paddling around Old Harry is the best paddle on the British Coast. However to make the most of it, it has to be at high tide and the weather should be on the sunny side. This Saturday seemed to be doing just that. Yet, we took a while to get persuaded to pack and go, in the end to some it may seem to be a little bit too far for a day trip location.

But not to me, getting up in the morning, driving for three and half hours is a small sacrifice for what one gets. This time, as a bonus,  we got to go on a ferry.

old harry

After that it was quick unpacking and launching to make the most of the now dropping tide. old harry 8old harry 9

I wasn’t paddling alone. Toby and Michal were eager to make the most of the day and we headed towards Peveril Point on the other side of Swanage Bay to play in the tiderce.

old harry 6

And yes, this time, it was me who got the camera. old harry 2 old harry 3 old harry 5

old harry 1

We practiced some rescues and rolling and overall were making the most of the conditions and good weather. old harry 4 old harry 10

Our return journey was less speedy, after all the playing in the waves for few hours took its toll on us.  old harry 7

Harry was now at low tide, but even then, he looked as handsome as ever. old harry 11