Freesteel Blog » Kayak Dive

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 at 2:05 pm - - Kayak Dive

Some old pictures of kayak diving in the Isle of Arran from 2016 that I had failed to blog about at the time are below.

The weekend before last I took a fellow DoESLiverpool-er diving in the Menai Strait, which was okay. The weather was gorgeous, but the viz was average and there were No Fish (except one butterfish I caught in my hand at the start of the dive).

Here’s us shinnying back up the sponge encrusted telephone cable back towards the Northwest shore after experiencing the current. We stayed underwater for another 20 minutes under the shelter of the main bridge pillar, but didn’t find the encrusted admiralty anchor that is reputed to be there.

I’m not sold on the idea of these side-mounted cylinders. Looked more like front mounted and dragging on the ground to me.

The weekend after that one (ie last weekend) I bagged an available place on his club trip to Eyemouth with some deep Nitrox type dives. I don’t like deep diving, but was persuaded to go anyway. It was awful. The algae had come out, the water visibility was about 2 metres, and at 40metres down it was as black as the night.

The first deep dive was to the U74. I reached it, then got freaked out by the strobe that had been tied to the shotline to “help” us find the way back, stirred up a cloud of the silt on the metal, and took the first available option to leave, passing all the other divers coming down the rope.

I have very little tolerance for danger when the fear-to-fun ratio is too high.

Second dive was just to 12m in Pettico Wick (normally a shore dive in bad weather), supposedly to the peanut wreck. I found some bits of metal, but mostly blank boulders. But then things really cheered up when I stumbled across the rock called Wick Gaunt and dropped into a slot behind it (I think on the West side) which turned into quite a nice cave.

The other divers were not amused and didn’t follow me in. I couldn’t find the other entrance when I swam around to the other side. This would be a great place with some more visibility — and done as a kayak dive.

I will be back, having obtained a copy of the 32 page A5 booklet detailing 18 dives in St Abbs and Eyemouth from the dive centre — a booklet which is not mentioned anywhere on the marine reserve website or available from Amazon. I intend to spend about a week there when I can, because it looks like the last time we gave it a go was eleven years ago in 2007.

I tried to persuade the other divers on the trip of the benefits of kayak diving, but they thought it was a bit dangerous. That’s because a 37m horrorshow dive in poor visibility with not enough lights to a section of shingly the seabed somewhere in the vicinity of the Glanmire wreck (the shot had been pulled off it) is considered A-okay.

No it wasn’t.

As we quit early, Al and I stopped off at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre near Lockerbie for some quiet moments of meditation in the temple where we overlapped into a session that involved people coming in and doing a bit of chanting.

Noisy lever-latch door handles on sprung swing doors at the temple entrance. Really? This has got to be one place it’s worth investing in some subtle silent autosealing door technology. But instead they’ve blown their tech budget on motorizing all the prayer wheels around the stupa.

We took a herbal tea, and I noticed a poster about their new off-shore retreat on Holy Isle, also in Scotland.

It turned out this was where I had a nice weekend kayak diving around this particular island with Becka in August 2016 and never blogged about it.

I had liaised with some fellow from Arran COAST who had campaigned for the Lamlash Bay no take zone to get some dive site information. (They’ve not yet produced a book like the St Abbs people have.)

Unfortunately the viz wasn’t very good, and we had quite a lot of current on our attempt at a deeper dive in the south channel.

He was kind enough to take these pics of us struggling on the surface to get kitted up in the tidal stream going past our kayaks that was pulling the buoy underwater.

We did also land and climb the peak on the island and discovered a dead data logger in the heather.

Just checking on the tech, you know.

Monday, March 12th, 2018 at 4:53 pm - - Kayak Dive, Weekends

Earlier I published the bus and train itinerary. Now for some pics.

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Friday, March 2nd, 2018 at 4:12 pm - - Kayak Dive, Weekends 1 Comment »

Just done 2 weeks (feels like 2 months) tour round southern Spain, culminating in 4 days of Surfski lessons in Tarifa. The conditions were gentle, which was perfect for people who don’t know how to paddle them properly.

We generally stayed cheaply in hostel dorm rooms (while going touristing) where all the jetsetting youth cluttering up the bunks didn’t seem to believe that there were actually train tracks all the way between where we were and England.

So to prove it, below is a table of our travel itinerary.

I’ll give a special shout-out to GoEuro.es which we only found out about on our first day in Madrid when we asked the guy behind the desk in the hostel where was the best place to buy our bus tickets. We very quickly got used to waving our phone with a downloaded PDF of a QR code at the train or bus conductor to be scanned, as well as the excellent wifi on the buses.

Type From To Euros Minutes km kph km/Euro Road-minutes Date Purchased Method
Train Liverpool London 26 139 350 151.08 13.46 280 2018-02-12 2018-01-12 Virgin
Train London Paris 78 144 457 190.42 5.86 366 2018-02-13 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train Paris Barcelona 49 390 1037 159.54 21.16 600 2018-02-13 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train Barcelona Madrid 49.55 165 650 236.36 13.12 360 2018-02-13 2017-11-09 Loco2
Bus Madrid Granada 18.59 300 420 84.00 22.59 260 2018-02-15 2018-02-14 GoEuro
Bus Granada Cordoba 17.29 144 201 83.75 11.63 135 2018-02-17 2018-02-16 GoEuro
Train Cordoba Seville 15.2 45 140 186.67 9.21 100 2018-02-17 2018-02-16 GoEuro
Train Seville Cadiz 16.05 100 122 73.20 7.60 85 2018-02-19 2018-02-18 GoEuro
Bus Cadiz Tarifa 10.2 105 105 60.00 10.29 75 2018-02-19 2018-02-18 GoEuro
Bus Tarifa Gibraltar 4.45 65 42 38.77 9.44 43 2018-02-25 2018-02-24 GoEuro
Bus Gibraltar Malaga 11.7 180 130 43.33 11.11 100 2018-02-25 2018-02-25 Station
Train Malaga Barcelona 59.05 350 996 170.74 16.87 550 2018-02-27 2018-02-18 GoEuro
Train Barcelona Lyon 39 300 639 127.80 16.38 367 2018-02-28 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train Lyon London 78 300 933 186.60 11.96 547 2018-02-28 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train London Liverpool 26 143 350 146.85 13.46 280 2018-03-01 2018-02-11 Virgin

Our losses amounted to several USB cables, one hat, one scarf, my logbook (only started this year), and one blocked ear for Becka from a freezing cold dive out of Tarifa on what is called the boiler wreck, where we were shown a brick from Scotland.

There was also the incident of the large monkey with teeth in Gibraltar that almost stole our passports out of the top of Becka’s backpack but couldn’t unzip the pocket in time before I scared it off. (Actually, it scared me away as I shouted for Becka to bat it off her back.)

We thought thought this had been an amazing no-flight adventure, but then it turned out we got home too late to see the ignite talk by Graham Hughes who claims to have visited every country in the world without flying.

So it’s really nothing to write home about. I hope to get some pictures in due course.

Monday, January 1st, 2018 at 3:39 pm - - Kayak Dive 1 Comment »

Grr, the youtube video editor got canned a few months ago. I didn’t notice because I haven’t done anything worthy of videoing and editing for months.

Fortunately, with the power of the record button in vlc and its capability of gluing clips together using these runes:

vlc 1.mp4 2.mp4 3.mp4 --sout "#gather:std{access=file,dst=join.mp4}" --sout-keep

I was able to get the clips trimmed down without wasting too much time.

There were wipe-outs.

Monday, January 1st, 2018 at 10:09 am - - Cave, Kayak Dive

While Becka abandons me for a whole month in Abkhazia including an unbroken 19 day underground camp (not due to surface until January 5), I finally had some Not-CavingTM fun out canoe surfing on Crosby Beach. (I had to sign up to spacebook to find the arrangements.)

I was happy because I was not at Bull Pot Farm, and I totally ignored the New Year celebrations because I was tired and sleepy, though the cathedral bells and the fireworks disturbed me.

Going again now, still with notably sore biceps. Hopefully the waves are a little less harsh. They roll in a little too frequently on that beach.

Friday, July 14th, 2017 at 2:07 pm - - Kayak Dive

I had a recollection that some people complained bitterly about how bitterly cold they were at some points during the winter. Why didn’t we leave the country and move somewhere hot? they moaned.

Within one minute of rolling up at the campsite in somewhere hot, in Banjole near Pula in Croatia, the complaints about never wanting to be taken somewhere that was too hot began streaming like sweat.

We put on our swimsuits, fins, masks and snorkels and swam round Fratarski Island, because I’d read of afternoon kayaking/snorkeling tours involving caves and fish and stuff like that in this place.

We saw sea cucumbers, squads of fish and rocks in the very clear blue water, and froze ourselves to the bone, especially when swimming down more than two metres past the thermocline.

Then we got out and felt too hot again.

The local dive operator (of which there are many) offered lots of dive sites below 30m, which we thought were too deep for us at our present state of being out of practice. Also, to be honest, we are cheapskates.

On the second day of this outrageous beach holiday hell we cycled to the end of the Kamenjak peninsula and went for to the east of the Safari Bar.

First there is a small cave above the waterline. Then there are some swim throughs under arches among the rocks three metres below the water surface. If you keep going you get to a cliff where people jump in, and just on the other side is a swim-into cave with a few cms of air space at the entrance that ends with a nice long swim through to the outside. We followed a dozen Croatians into here and there was quite a commotion among them when a jellyfish was seen below the water among their thrashing feet.

We got out, walked back, tried doing another snorkel off Cap Kamenjak, which wasn’t half as good and turned up only a few stingrays on the sandy floor that were dead.

We returned for an ice cream and drove onwards to the Soca valley in Slovenia.

But I thought this looked like a good place for some kayak diving. If only someone local actually did it around here. It would be a bit crazy doing it an unusual way in a place that is far away from your home. It’s easier to bend the rules when you are at home because you are at least familiar with them and know how they work. In spite of this, I am told that Croatia is not exotic enough for a diving holiday.

Saturday, October 15th, 2016 at 2:20 pm - - Cave, Hang-glide, Kayak Dive

Maybe I’ve got writer’s block. I’ve not even filled these into my logbook. I call it a hat-trick if I do a cave trip, a hang-glider flight and a dive in the same week. This is the fourth time I’ve done it. Generally speaking, the individual events are not all the greatest: the dive was pretty murky, the cave was gritty, and the flight was ridgy. Can’t complain.

The wreck of the Azmund is in Holyhead harbour about a mile of paddling out from the beach.

It was dark and murky and we didn’t find the way back to the boilers after starting on it. The wreck is huge though. Part of the metal juts out of water at low tide.
azmundwater

On the way back we discovered why the beach we launched from is not popular with kayakers — it dries out to about 500m. We couldn’t see our boats after the first time we walked back with a load to the car.
azmund

That was Saturday. There was a pleasant day out at Moelfre, with some people being terrified of the currents, but it was the wash from the joy-riding lifeboats that nearly sunk us. The image of the almost breaking 4 metre high wall of water that came upon us while we were anchored in the shallows of Rat Island a few minutes after they zoomed through the channel is going to live long in my memory. The second dive worked out well when we found the remains of the Royal Charter in the sand after groveling in the shallows among the kelp where it was supposed to be until giving up.

Then there was a cave trip to the far end of Ingleborough Show Cave (the only photo of which I have is a line of cavers getting changed on the footpath), followed by a quick escape home ostensibly to start clearing out the house, but which was in fact an excuse to be in North Wales for a flight off Penmaenbach.

penmanhg
I landed on the dwindling beach at high tide after an hour of very smooth sailing in the sea air.

frontroom

A concrete breaker was hired to smash up and take down the floor. We filled a skip with the crap a day later with some help from friends.

Now we live in a building site. Again. And it’s mid-way through October.

Monday, June 13th, 2016 at 2:14 pm - - Kayak Dive

I haven’t dived near Skomer since 2008 when we arrived just after Bristol University left a day early, having been drenched by the rain. This time we successfully caught them on the last day of their trip and tagged on for a dive on the north face of Tusker Rock in Jack Sound, which is known for having a very short slack window.

tusker1

We paddled out there for the dive at 1:10pm, but the Bristol boats didn’t show up from around the corner till 1:28pm — very late. Everyone blamed everyone else for the faff, and I didn’t feel confident with going in here at this crazy place alone without being really sure we got the place right. (The north flowing current is menacing as it descends down to 50m as it leaves Jack Sound.)

tusker2
Bit blurry, but there’s a dogfish swimming past Becka

tusker3
Rather too soon, we got washed off the rock by the south flowing current and had to come up.

We had an excellent extra dive in the calm waters of Martins Haven where the scallops were stacked like bricks (apparently there’s a fine of £50,000 if you’re caught taking one of them). Lots of lobsters, spider crabs, and nudibranchs. The camera was of course out of battery by then.

Next day we headed for Octopus Reef on Dinas Head, where I’d met Red Dragon Divers on a sea kayaking trip in 2012. This was a chance to tick that one off, although the visibility was very poor from the plankton bloom. Becka found the octopus on the first dive, after we’d fallen off the reef onto gravel and were swimming round in circles at 13m. Spent the night in Parrog (where we’d kayaked from), too flaked out to go to the pub.

Final day had us paddling out of Gwbert by Cardigan to Cardigan Island to try and dive the SS Hereford. Unfortunately, the westerly swell was picking up quite a bit, so the sea was a little crazy out there and not a great place to try a dive on a shallow wreck. So we dropped in round the corner in the sheltered waters that was very much in its pea soup stage of plankton (little green translucent peas of algae everywhere), bothered a few lobsters, dogfish and spider crabs, before paddling onwards to Mwnt visiting all the sea caves in the coast. The carry-out was not as bad as it looks in the photo.
mwnt

Becka left me at the tea shop while she walked back to fetch the car. The lady running it explained that the dolphins can normally be found off the north end of the beach, whenever you see a gannet flying there. She guessed they were driving the fish into a sand-bar, and the gannet was picking the ones off that came to the surface.

We can check it out next time we go down there and have a third attempt to do the Hereford wreck when we are sure the sea state is calm enough to make it worthwhile. Kayak diving wins again.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 at 11:19 am - - Kayak Dive

I really have been neglecting to blog. I’m going to bang out a few quick posts on this the day before my holiday.

Saturday 12 March involved a grumpy day paddling around Hilbre Island with a rather fuzzy camera.

This is the stone wall on the northwest corner of the island at high water:

The professor on the water had just gone on a 10 day trip to Japan to use up an academic travel budget, and at the same time busted a chunk out of the dwindling global carbon budget [podcast here]. You don’t want to see what the bailiffs do when they collect on an unpaid carbon debt. They’ll take your food.

I’ve been speculating about a specialization of my Question from Hell proposal where visiting professors who have just flown to give a lecture get routinely asked about their carbon budget (which they could have avoided by teleconferencing) as the first audience question from a young student. It will be rude and ungrateful to ask such questions of a visiting guest, and will embarrass everybody. The excuses are lame.

The top excuse will be: “We don’t have the equipment”.

If that one gets a lot of laughter, the second excuse will be: “Meeting in person makes a big difference”. To which I’d like to respond: “Where’s the research?”

There isn’t any.

I’d love to set up a controlled experiment where the person who doesn’t do the 10 day trip to Japan gets to take a 24 hour bus ride to a hotel opposite a Japanese takeaway in Dundee via Plymouth and is locked-in with the internet where his only communications portal for the next 120 hours is a telepresence robot parked in the corner of the lab in Japan. He is free to rove the corridors if he’s being ignored. Maybe one of the brighter students would take pity on the robot and take it home overnight for late night chat with bottle of sake, or even for a night tour round the city on a motorbike. I hear these VR goggles and hi-def cameras are pretty good these days.

The time duration exposure, the portability, and the lessening of inhibitions could easily mean that human bonds and interaction could be much enhanced compared to proceeding to these places as a meat embodiment that smells and needs to go to the toilet occasionally.

If this Questioning takes off I am expecting that university administrators, who can be blindingly stupid, commit to ban such questions, as you cannot ban something like this without actually telling people what it is you are banning.

PS. Cory Doctorow was burning up the planet ten years ago.

Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 7:18 pm - - Kayak Dive

Not much bloggable recently. Some well-formed untested ideas on matters of servo motor control, and lots of bad psychology. Two discoveries of note that’ll take up a lot of time are jscut for CAM and chilipeppr for CNC downloads, both of which run in the browser. I have an interest in this approach, but now that I’ve found some people who are doing it effectively, it will save me a lot of time.

Meantime, here’s a couple of bad pictures from a cheeky kayak dive in the docks during Becka’s Thursday night canoe polo session (aka murderball).

Getting ready to go down:
eel1

One of the scary eels that made me shriek when it appeared in the dark.
eel2

Eels look and move a lot like snakes. We’ve got an instinctive fear when we encounter them in their own environment. It was interesting how they could swim backwards just as easily as forwards.