Freesteel Blog » Kayak Dive

Thursday, June 21st, 2018 at 11:31 am - - Cave, Kayak Dive

Last week we completed the unfinished business of properly kayak diving the underwater cave at Pen-y-Cil headland Aberdaron in Bardsey Sound in perfect conditions

Just look at these conditions:

We had 10 metre visibility, lots of air, and got a nice swim through with lots of crabs.

Even did the side cave too. As Becka’s neckseal had split, I dived the Glenocum wreck on my own on the way back. It was so relaxing.

On day two we did some (very cold) snorkeling off Criccieth looking for seagrass (didn’t find any pipefish).

On day three we were going to paddle around from Whistling Sands through Bardsey Sound, but decided that would be too scary, so we went and played in the overfalls by Nefyn. The waves looked huge when we were there, but don’t amount to much in the photos.

We got air fills at Tyn Rhos Diving which surprisingly still existed. And beforehand I visited my mum for one night in Machynlleth before driving up for a night in the campsite behind Eric Jones Cafe and meeting Becka off the bus in Tremadoc, after much protesting that I didn’t want to drive up and fetch her from Caernarfon ridiculously late in the night.

Thursday, June 21st, 2018 at 10:29 am - - Kayak Dive

Not at all keeping up with any blogging of late, so here is a late report a 5 day sea kayking trip from Oban with the Liverpool Canoe Club

Those who served:
IB, SH, RC, CH, AV, Julian Todd, Becka Lawson

I’m proud of underplanning and not thinking ahead, especially when doing something new.

Becka and I had never been out for more than one night in a sea kayak, and this trip was supposed to be 5 nights in the Scottish wilderness. We had the kayaks, we had a trangia stove and enough old soda bottles for regulation supply of water. At the last minute we grabbed our one working tent that wasn’t the pop-up kind. I was sure we could simply shovel enough packets of random food from the larder into the holds around this gear to make something up each day.

Becka drove us up to Oban while I provided the entertainment by reading aloud someone’s kayak camping packing list off the kayarchy website. By the time we reached Glasgow Becka had to panic buy yet more provisions at the Aldi supermarket, so we arrived quite late.

Other last minute decisions that happened frantically in the morning included packing our thickest sleeping bags (which could barely be rammed in even when you fed them right up to the bow through the hatch), and our choice to wear our skinny wetsuits for the whole trip because we didn’t have enough confidence that we weren’t going to capsize or be able to roll.

The rest of the group were polite enough not to make it too obvious we were holding them up as we squabbled over what to take.

And then we set off south towards the slate islands.

We got lucky with the weather. It was never too windy or wavy, and it tended to rain during the day and often during the night, with brief sunny respites for a few hours most afternoons during which time we could dry out our wetsuits. That was another advantage of going on a trip lead by IB — aside from the air of competence and expert decision making — the early starts and early finishes. You got your 5 or 6 hours on the water experiencing sore arms, sore thighs and a sore back from sitting in an insanely unnatural position (those who can’t take it probably don’t go kayaking), with enough time afterwards *not* in the boat to recover and straighten out. If left to do our own planning, Becka would probably have maxxed out the paddling for a minimum of eleven hours a the day, which would have meant I’d refuse to get out of bed in the morning. On a multi-day trip you need to pace yourself sensibly; it’s not a weekend blast.

The sea was flat enough to let us go round the far side of the Garvellachs and camp by the site of the monestry on the same patches of grass where the previous kayakers had camped the day before where they’d left their two-way radio.

The next day we headed back to the coast in a horrible wind and rain through the Grey Dogs north of Scarba and around to the south end to look at the Bothy that overlooks the Corryvrecken. Here we met our first group of other kayakers just getting ready to head out to sea (pretty lazy), and gave them back their missing radio. Then we had lunch in the bothy, which is a depressingly ruined not-cosy two story cottage, before moving on to a campsite on the mainland.

The most notable wildlife were the geese who liked to fly back and forth overhead honking wherever we walked. Someone saw an otter. Every so often there was a seal head poking out of the waves. There were no midges at all because it was too early in the season and too cold. In the evenings SH entertained us with different ways of not lighting a fire (apparently the driftwood was too salty) until he used a lighter. Becka and I had neglected to pack whiskey. We also worked out that a one man tent was too small for two people.

The final night (cutting short one day because of the wind forecast) put us on the north coast of Shuna on a gusty headland of squelchy mud and cow-pats where we gave a demonstration of how a married couple decides which of two spots a metre apart to pitch their tent. So we put it onto the wetter ground with the door facing into the weather across two cow-pats that Becka scooped and thrown over her shoulder using a paddle as a shovel. I sulked and didn’t come out for the remainder of the soggy day. I only had sandals and the mud sank up to your ankles, which would have made the sleeping bag filthy.

Final day before the wind really picked up involved shooting through the Bridge over the Atlantic before the tide changed and then an approach around the back of Kerrera Island to Oban. Here I was able to practice my downwind surfing, which we had been taught to do on surfskis earlier in the year on our train trip to Spain. It was fun, except I had to keep ignoring Ian who kept calling me back to the shelter of shoreline where the waves crashed on the rocks and the paddling was just a right slog.

It got very hard around the north of the island where we now had to paddle south directly into wind. No matter how much force I applied to the paddle, all the others seemed to pull away into the wind at twice my apparent speed. They waited for me to catch up in the shelter of a small island, and pulled away again and got to the shore miles ahead of me. By the time we packed everything back on cars and vans the wind had almost died and children were out on the middle of the sound on a raft made of barrels.

We all went out to dinner in the slap-up Wetherspoons Pub in Oban called the Corryvrecken.

Monday, June 4th, 2018 at 9:13 pm - - Kayak Dive

I’ve been having some adventures, including one successful flight over the Black Mountains (I didn’t get round to blogging about), a five day kayak trip out of Oban (I wrote up and Becka decided to rewrite, so maybe I’ll post my original here), and an unsuccessful flight in Yorkshire where I deserved to crash horribly, but got away with an on-the-spot landing across a single track road between two dry stone walls (I should never have got to that place).

At the weekend we were in the Farne Islands and had a lovely time with the seals.

You always get a little nervous when they open their big toothy mouth.

That was the shallow dive. Then we dived the Knivestone and shook hands with a lobster (one among many, they’re under every rock),


… and resisted the temptation to bother the octopus.

I got to do a bit more blogging, announcing various electronics work (of which there is lots), but so much is ongoing I can’t be bothered to report it. I’ve now forgotten what’s missing (nearly everything). Maybe it’s because I’m putting things in twitter instead. Oh well.

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.

(more…)

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.