Posts belonging to Category Valley Nordkapp LV



Sea kayak comparison chart

I’ve been accumulating in my notebook vital statistics (length, volume and width) relating to various makes and models of craft. I refer to this quite often and thought maybe others would find it useful. Alan has kindly added to it to make it more comprehensive. So here it is.

For Sale: Valley Nordkapp LV

For Sale: Valley Nordkapp LV

For Sale: Valley Nordkapp LV

NOW SOLD!

I am now facing the reality that I am not using my Nordkapp LV as much as such a beautiful kayak merits. Since acquiring the smaller Rockpool Isel, I have been favouring it due to its better fit for me.

So, despite my emotional attachment to the Nordkapp LV, I have decided to sell it. Details are:

  • Red
  • Less than 2 years old – one careful owner
  • Fully functional skeg
  • Only minor surface abrasions on hull (as to be expected)
  • Fitted Silva deck compass
  • Price: £1450

Contact me here or by leaving a comment.

Maiden voyage in Rockpool Isel

Those of you who have been keeping track of my blog (which is more than I’ve been doing …) will be aware that, up until now, I’ve been a bit of a Valley Girl (I know, readers from California are now confused). To explain, I have always loved my Nordkapp LV, which is made by Valley Sea Kayaks. A year on from having the good fortune to take ownership of the Nordkapp, here is what I continue to love about it:

  • It’s super speedy
  • It edges beautifully
  • It’s lively and playful
  • It’s nice and roomy for camping trips (at 326 litres volume)
  • It has quality and heritage
  • It looks beautiful – to my mind the most aesthetically pleasing kayak out there. I know looks are not everything, but a thing of beauty is indeed a joy to behold.
Shameless posing with Rockpool Isel

Shameless posing with Rockpool Isel (Photo courtesy Julia Darby)

Having said all that, during my time up in Skye, I came to appreciate some other kayak qualities in relation to rough water, comfort, rolling and the like, and a seed was planted in my mind that perhaps a kayak that would not so much compete with, as complement, my Nordkapp would be in order. The idea is to gain experience and hone skills in a kayak in which I feel confident and which enhances my skills, and use that foundation to “grow into” my more challenging kayak. That’s the plan at least.

Enter the Rockpool Isel. Again, avid blog followers will recall that I test drove one last month and was extremely impressed. The situation evolved and somehow I found myself hooked up with a beautiful Isel of my very own.

I was, of course, delighted to have the opportunity to embark upon an inaugural trip on the Clyde in the company of Julia (herself an Isel owner) and friends. I had reluctantly turned down the opportunity to go out the previous weekend having discovered that, no matter how many times I hit “Refresh”, the 40 mph gusts showing on the Met Office Website refused to disappear. Apparently, surf was definitely up. The 20 mph gusts forecast for this weekend seemed a positive relief in comparison. Indeed, it was a little windy, but this was all the better for giving me a feel for comfort levels (of both the physical and mental kind) in my Isel.

A swan escort for my Isel

A swan escort for my Isel

My fellow paddlers spent some time kindly complimenting my choice of kayak as we set off (apart from that one comment … the response to which is, it’s glitter, not dirty marks! Oh, and the design is seaweed, not squiggles). Soon we were emerging from the Holy Loch out into less sheltered seas.

As the journey progressed, I was not disappointed in the Isel. Here are some reasons why:

  • The Isel is built for the smaller paddler. It therefore fits someone of “lesser” dimensions snugly and has less windage.
  • I’m finding that, the plain fact is that I do better with harder chined/flatter hulled kayaks in choppier water at this stage in my kayaking “career”. I hope that I will eventually do as well in rounder hulled kayaks, but it’s nice to have a choice.
  • I have had issues with foot pegs. After a few hours of paddling, my feet ache and I have numb toes. This is actually quite a big deal, as it really can detract from the pleasure of an outing. In retrospect, it might have been better if I’d ordered my Nordkapp with a customised bulkhead, but obviously this makes the kayak very specific to the owner (thus reducing potential resale value and preventing others from using it). The nice thing about Rockpool kayaks is the incredibly comfortable footplate that comes as standard. There is no pressure on the ball of the foot, no numbness, no pain. I love it!
  • When it comes to rolling, I find I benefit from “aggressive” thigh grips that translate all of one’s effort into the maneouvre/roll. The Isel has me clamped nicely into my kayak – it almost won’t let me not roll. (I’m sure I’ve just cursed something now).
  • Rockpool Isel seat

    Rockpool Isel seat

    Another comfort issue relates to back pain. I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve had some significant problems with this too and I think it relates to sacral/lumbar support. Whatever it is – whether it’s the positioning of the lower glass seat (versus the Valley kayaks’ standard foam seats), the shape of the seat, knee positioning, or the back rest – the ergonomics in the Isel are just right and it equates to zero back pain (for me so far at least). Again, a very big deal.

  • The quality and build is flawless.
Moody Loch Long

Moody Loch Long

The swell pushed us up Loch Long nicely and attempts were made at having a bit of a surf. I enjoyed scooting along as the waves caught my stern. We stopped for lunch at Ardentinny and then, as is often the case, the return journey was against the wind. The Isel remained comfortably under control (always nice) and I remained remarkably dry despite the oncoming waves. A good workout was had by all.

Our launch site beside the Marina at high tide turned out to be a less than ideal return site at low tide. Scenes entirely appropriate to Halloween ensued as we found ourselves being sucked into the gloopy, stinky mud-swamp that awaited us. There were moments when we thought we’d never see our friends footwear again. Fortunately, we did manage to make it intact all the way back to the cars.

As I reflect on how wonderful it is to have so many quality kayaks to choose from on the market, I find that, with the Isel in particular, I feel a real sense of appreciation that the designers have taken the time to consider the needs of the smaller paddler. In the paddling world of big, burly, beardie blokes, it’s quite touching to think that we svelte types have not been forgotten and that we too can share in the joy of a snugly fitting, comfortable, maneouvreable craft.

Deja vu all over again at Loch Striven

Friday night’s pool training took on a new and interesting twist last week. Alan and I had been busying ourselves with our usual rolling drills when I became aware of something resembling “shenanigans” going on at the deep end. I tried to ignore this and look busy, but was spotted by coach Richard who bullied invited me to participate. I then found myself in a kayak with a rope tied to each end, a bit like some sort of mediaeval torture device really. Richard and Euan then pulled the kayak up and down the pool, encouraging me to brace to prevent capsize. I have to admit, I was starting to enjoy it. Upon inevitably capsizing, I then had the opportunity to roll in the “moving” water. It definitely simulated the sensation of battling opposing forces under the water and I got a lot out of it. Alan’s turn was next and I think that there’s the tiniest of chances that Richard and Euan set the bar slightly higher for him (this could be a guy thing).

Duly trained up, we were keen to get out on the real water at the weekend. The forecast made Saturday a complete non-starter as, despite Richard and Euan’s best efforts, our training hadn’t quite extended to simulations of 65 mph gusts (maybe just 35 mph), so we pinned our hopes on getting out on Sunday when conditions were predicted to be calmer. And indeed they were, so off we popped for an afternoon jaunt.

Those great big ships again - and tiny kayak

Those great big ships again - and tiny kayak

More often than not we find ourselves putting in at Toward shoreline and seeing where the fancy takes us. More often than not, it takes us to Bute. And then maybe back over to Loch Striven. Being creatures of habit, that’s exactly what happened on Sunday. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely finished inspecting the Maersk ships anchored in the loch, especially as another one had been added to the “raft” since we were last there. I suppose I am slightly fascinated by ships. It must have something to do with growing up on the banks of the Clyde.

After a pleasant paddle over to Bute and then northwards up Loch Striven, we managed to get a little more up close and personal this time (with the ships, that is). There were no signs of life aboard the behemoth vessels as we paddled around them, although I believe they are still being “powered down”. It’s astonishing to think that there is no work for them (or hundreds of others like them around the world) for the foreseeable future. What were all those ships transporting previously that we are somehow managing to live without now?

Stars and Stripes on Loch Striven

Stars and Stripes on Loch Striven

We noted that one of them (the Sealand Performance) was registered in New York and was flying the Stars and Stripes, which seemed a little incongruous in wee, backwater Loch Striven. But I’m forgetting how recently nearby Holy Loch played host to those very colours.

Having satisfied ourselves that we’d seen enough, we were escorted off the premises by a friendly seal as we turned to head home. We noticed that the sea state was changing a little at this point. It was no longer calm, for a start. The tide was going out and meeting the incoming wind. There were no 65 mph gusts or anything, but it was definitely lively. Something very similar happened the last time we made this self same trip, so it was all getting a bit Groundhog Day-ish. By the time we reached the NATO refuelling depot, I declared to Alan that I wanted to head in for a short break. Alan appeared to be unfazed by the conditions, but I threw a small wobbly. I’m not sure why this is. I think I am naturally predisposed towards thinking the worst. Alan pointed out that the worst that could actually happen was:

  • I might capsize
  • My roll might fail
  • I’d simply be blown over to the nearby shore

Processed through the “Pam’s even worse, worst case scenario filter” however, this reads as:

  • I might capsize
  • I might become entangled in something (seaweed? fish farm paraphernalia? NATO pipelines?) and be unable to free myself
  • I might hit my head off a rock
  • My roll might indeed therefore fail
  • Conditions might deteriorate to gale force
  • That squall moving to the north of us might contain south-bound tornadoes*
  • I (and my kayak) might get smashed to little pieces along the shoreline

(*Before you ask, I have seen a tornado forming above a car park in Greenock).

Where does all of that come from? It does get tedious.

Sensing my discomfort, Alan swapped kayaks with me. He had been paddling his new Avocet, while I was in my Nordkapp LV. I must say that I’d rather liked this arrangement as it levelled the playing field in terms of our respective speeds. Alan, therefore, got a big dollop of his own medicine feel for paddling at a reduced pace. After the wind had made its presence known, however, I was inclined to jump into the Avocet to see how it compared. And yes, I did feel a little more “in control” in the smaller kayak. It was also interesting to note that, whilst the Nordkapp had tended to rear up and then slap down on the waves, the Avocet delivered several face-fulls of saltwater instead (no, I wasn’t crying!).

We chugged our way back, rounding the fish farm, where it became especially bouncy and confused. I summoned up my learnings from Lewis, Islay, Skye and the pool, all of which had involved considerably worse conditions (ok, except for the pool). In my mind, I can honestly say, I was mentally prepared to try rolling upon capsize, especially as most of the sea activity was on my “good” side. I no longer think that my only instinct would be to pull the deck’s grab loop, but it remains to be seen as, on this occasion, I (and Alan) did manage to stay upright.

I am leaning towards adopting another indispensable tip from coach Richard in the meantime, proven to help many a kayaker get through rough waters and also to engage their roll. So where can I order a smiley face sticker for my deck? 🙂

I want to be you – whenever I see you smilin’
Cause it’s easily one of the hardest things to do
Your worries and fears become your friends
And they end up smilin’ at you
Put on a smilin’ face

Smiley Faces, Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere

Both sides of the story

Scottish summer weather

Scottish summer weather

Let me start by mentioning the weather situation here on the west coast of Scotland. This past August was the second wettest on record, as measured at Benmore Gardens near Dunoon. A full 410 mm of rain fell. For a kayaker, of course, getting wet isn’t necessarily an obstacle to enjoyment. Indeed, a river kayaker may positively relish such conditions, at least in terms of their impact on river levels. But for the sea kayaker of less-than-advanced skills, aside from visibility issues, the real deterrent is the wind which has accompanied the torrential rain, with gusts of anything up to 50 mph. This doesn’t exactly entice one outdoors, let alone on to the sea (or on to the rapidly developing patch of wilderness/swamp formerly known as the garden, for that matter). Not only that, the average maximum temperature for August was 18°C. I know that my overseas readership is finding this difficult to believe, especially those in, say, fiery California or sweltering Spain, for whom August is still officially classified as summer.

So perhaps I may be forgiven if I don’t have exciting blog posts filled with details of multi-day trips to beautiful, sun-baked Hebridean beaches. Or even wee jaunts down the Clyde. Instead, the conditions have only served to encourage our preoccupation with rolling practice in the pool and at the loch. At the risk of being a tiny bit boring – and going on the premise that a boring blog entry is slightly less boring than no blog entry at all – allow me to return to that very topic.

Alan has come on in leaps and bounds, finally mastering a sweep roll – on both sides. Months of working on his “bad” side have been followed by him discovering that his other bad side, ie the injured side (bear with me here) is actually now his good side. A pool session at Garnock last week, coached expertly by Harvey, produced great results which saw my role as rescuer becoming entirely redundant. Also thanks to the efforts of Harvey in teaching me what a decent sweep was really all about, and to the many suggestions from other experienced folks, my sea kayak roll has improved markedly. Three things have been key:

  • aforementioned sweep
  • watching the paddle blade
  • blade angle

On that latter point, I made an astounding discovery. When I first learned to roll at the pool, I found that my blade angle was improved by tweaking my leading wrist away from me, and I’ve been doing that ever since. Last weekend, I discovered that in my Nordkapp LV, possibly due to the differing body position upon set-up (ie I’m up much higher in the water than when in the pool kayaks and in other sea kayaks), I have to tweak my wrist towards me. This flat out surprised me as I realised that this especially had been my undoing all along. Whenever I’d been trying to “improve” blade angle, I’d actually been hindering myself further. Finally, I started rolling consistently.

On the other hand (so to speak), I have been completely neglecting my off side, choosing instead to try to make my right side “bombproof” first. I am a very right-sided person. Doing anything on my left feels weak and/or weird. So I knew that I would be starting essentially from scratch when I did move over to rolling up on the left. What I hadn’t factored in was the revival of an old mountain-biking injury from a few years ago.

I recall it was a March morning up on the forest trail. I was cruising along on the flat when suddenly my bike wiped out from under me upon hitting a patch of ice. I slammed into the trail, which caused me to writhe about helplessly in pain. I still have the shin dent to prove it. The worst of the injury was the tearing of the (rhomboid) muscular tissue between the shoulder and the spine which took some time to heal. And, at a certain age, one might argue that healing of such injuries is never quite complete or perfect. So it goes when attempting to engage a sweep roll on my left side that I cause whatever patchwork repair that occurred to start to unravel and my best friend soon becomes an ice pack. Of course, this only adds weight to my suspicion that I should have learned all this rolling stuff at age 12 (hi Jessica!).

Now I am facing the awareness that rolling on both sides may be a higher mountain to climb than I’d previously thought. When checking off the mental skills chart, in the entry against “rolling” I see a little asterisk beside my name which translates to “one side only”. Getting back to reality (I remember that!), there is also the annoying prospect of being unable to roll up against the waves because they are not on my “good” side.

I can’t help but note how, in rolling, my personal goalposts keep moving and it thus becomes rather like an emotional rollercoaster. It goes something like this:

  • Starting to learn to roll –> fear
  • Overcoming fear –> moderate contentment
  • Still can’t roll –> frustration and lowered self-esteem
  • First roll at the pool –> ecstasy!
  • Growing awareness that roll could be better –> dose of reality
  • Can’t roll sea kayak –> frustration and lowered self-esteem
  • First sea kayak roll –> ecstasy!
  • First sea kayak roll in rough water conditions –> best day ever!
  • Difficulty rolling own sea kayak –> frustration and lowered self-esteem
  • Continued difficulty rolling own sea kayak –> meltdown/tantrums
  • Rolling own sea kayak consistently –> happiness moderated by growing awareness of inability to roll on both sides
  • Can’t roll on both sides –> frustration and lowered self-esteem

That’s a lot for the old nerves to handle. Or should I say, the old ego. Good job that, at the end of the day, I can take a step back from it all and realise that it’s really the be all and end all only rolling.

If less is more, just think how much more more could be.” Frasier Crane

Rolling as religion

Alan doing C-to-C roll

Alan doing C-to-C roll

It’s been feeling like I’ve converted to a new religion lately, the religion of kayak rolling. The way it occupies my thoughts and spare time has all the markers of a cult-like fervour, a saltwater brainwashing of sorts. Heaven or Nirvana can be found in a perfect roll. Hell or dukkha is found in repeated failure. There are even sects to this religion – the sweep-roll followers, the C-to-C convertees, the “hybrids” who dabble in various forms. Our temple is the sea, our church a convenient loch or pool. Our rosary or mala is the noseclip worn around our neck and our skullcap is made of neoprene.

Sometimes the God of Rolling is in benevolent mood and the planets are aligned, blessings are bestowed and some sweet rolls are manifest. But sometimes this God is angry and vengeful and punishes by cruelly denying the devout prayers of unworthy disciples.

I’m certain also that there are many religious parallels concerning the gifting of a lowly devotee with a powerful and blessed tool that renders them capable of wondrous things, such as smiting enemies and parting seas and so on. I have been given such a tool – it’s called a Valley Nordkapp LV. I have yet to prove my worthiness.

So Alan and I made our weekly pilgrimage to Loch Eck yesterday. Alan struggled with his sweep and took a break for some contemplation. I jumped in my kayak and, to my immense pleasure, performed a highly successful roll that had the sound of “hallellujah” echoing up and down the loch.

That was my last really good roll.

And so it followed that I started to think. And then I thought some more. Here’s how my thoughts went:

  • I need to adjust my head positioning
  • I need to adjust my blade angle
  • I seem to be coming up too high and can’t get my blade on the water at the start of my sweep, why is that?
  • My BA is too buoyant
  • I need to reach forward more
  • Wow, I haven’t thought about my hip flick in a while, I need to focus on that
  • I’ve forgotten my head movement
  • My blade angle’s all wrong
  • I’ve forgotten everything, but if I try another 3 dozen times it might come back to me
  • I feel dizzy
  • I’m tired, cold and want to go home

There were some more successful rolls, and I should have stopped at 2 in a row, but I honestly can’t figure out what made them successful. Or why in some kayaks all this seems almost effortless.

Meantime, after his contemplation, Alan made a declaration that he was sick fed up with failed sweep rolls and was going to convert over to the C-to-C side. To me, such switches of allegiance at this stage in our rolling practice are akin to converting from Church of Scotland to Rastafarianism. It is beyond comprehension, a step too far. But Alan has been dabbling with the C-to-C for some time now and yesterday saw him on his road to Damascus (OK, enough with the religious metaphors). Needless to say, the C-to-C with an extended paddle (the latter recommended by Gordon) worked. Every single time. In my Nordkapp LV. In his Nordkapp. Awesome.

So, with a desire to share in the awesomeness, I had a go myself. It felt weird and different, yet not. I came up after 3 attempts, which isn’t bad for a brand new roll. I am torn.

I started a discussion on the UK Rivers Guidebook Sea Kayaking forum where I have found like-minded souls who evidently also spend their non-practising hours contemplating matters of deep and philosophical meaning relevant to all things salty. I would, however, like to know where they all were when I was checking for new responses at 8 am this Sunday morning. I mean, priorities.

But until such time as I figure it all out and achieve Ultimate Enlightenment, aka a consistent, bombproof roll in my Nordy, that’s me in the corner …

The body moves naturally, automatically, unconsciously, without any personal intervention or awareness. But if we begin to use our faculty of reasoning, our actions become slow and hesitant.” Zen Master Taishen Deshimaru

Snapping out of it

With perfect timing, I came across this article: “Overcoming MS to scale Everest“. Exactly the kind of news I need to read right now. The last couple of sentences are particularly meaningful:

“Who you are inside… that’s what’s important. That will always be there,” she said.

“Whether my legs carry me up a mountain or not, I’m still who I am deep inside.”

And speaking of snapping out of it, I’m still working on hip snaps (aka hip flicks) in my sea kayak. Interestingly, I’m making better progress with my Capella solely due to the thigh grips. When (not if!) I do get it working, I will next have to look at perhaps modifying my Nordkapp with some foam to allow better contact for learning to roll purposes at least.

But before I get overly focused on rolling as a core skill (oops … too late), I am conscious of the fact that it is important to also focus on avoiding having to roll in the first place by learning other core skills that go some way to preventing capsize. Fear not, we are looking forward to addressing those further very soon.

A new club, and other trials

There are certain clubs that are a pleasure to join and participate in. I can think of the 2 kayaking clubs that I have joined in the past couple of years. It’s been a while since we’ve been over at Garnock in Ayrshire and it’s not for want of wanting. We haven’t forgotten our pals over there and the fun we had with them last year. A happy complication occurred when the local Cowal club started up and met on the same night as Garnock. The choice was drive 20 minutes to the Cowal club, or 1.5 hours to Garnock. As you might guess, Cowal won out and we now hang our heads in shame in front of the Garnock crew (we do intend to return soon).

Some clubs aren’t so fun, and last week I discovered that I had qualified (without even trying!) for entry into a new one, the one called “Multiple Sclerosis”. Ugh. The diagnosis didn’t come as a shock as it’s been suspected since last October, and it is classified as “mild”. But somehow actually having the label pinned on me has been a bit unsettling, to say the least. Half of me is in complete denial – I feel fine overall and still have all my fitness, and the other half is determined to beat it (yes, I will be the one!). There’s another half of me (I know, I know) that is all messed up. I am told that that is natural.

I’ve been grappling around for something to lift me out of that third half’s abyss, to occupy my mind with more pleasant things. The other day, Alan and I decided to take advantage of the sultry temperatures and go to Loch Eck to try to roll our sea kayaks. I figured, now that I’ve mastered rolling the Dunoon pool boats (one of my proudest achievements of recent times), there was a fair chance of success and nothing would cheer me more than rolling my very own Nordy.

OMG it was like trying to roll concrete.

There are several possibilities here:

  • The amnesiac excuse: I’ve completely forgotten everything I ever learned about rolling (it sure felt that way).
  • The blame someone else excuse: the technique is waaay different between a river kayak and a sea kayak, even although several coaches assured me it would not be.
  • The feeble excuse: the cold shock of rolling in the not-so-sultry waters of Loch Eck deprived me of any cognitive ability, other than to gasp and panic.
  • The looking for sympathy excuse: I was a wee bit distracted and not in the best frame of mind.
  • The poor workman blames his tools excuse: the Nordkapp’s thigh braces aren’t the most gripping.
  • The bad karma excuse: my self-pride at learning to roll the pool boats was unwarranted and OTT, so this is what I get.

It was with great despondency that I exited the water realising that I have taken a bit of a step back, in more ways than one. But no-one promised us a rose garden, did they? Life is by its very nature a bit of a trial – it’s how we respond to that trial that determines how much we actually suffer. Happiness is, after all, a choice.

So I’ll try rolling again, maybe with my Capella just for comparison. I’d pay good money for appreciate any tips about transitioning from rolling a river kayak to rolling a sea kayak.

I’ll do a bit of yoga to sort my head out. And I’ll probably go for a paddle somewhere nice too.

Tomorrow is another day.

But it’s Thursday …

Loch Striven

Out on Loch Striven ... on a Thursday

I recall a TV advert some years ago (in the US, I think) which featured a be-suited chap walking down a busy city street. He is stopped dead in his tracks by the sight of a SUV driving past, fully laden with adventure gear and evidently heading off to the great outdoors somewhere well beyond the city limits. As he stares in disbelief, he mumbles, “But it’s Tuesday”. I can relate to both parties in that advert – I have been that frustrated office worker, but more recently I have been that Tuesday skiver. Guess which one I like best!

So it was Thursday and the sun was shining. As much as I love my days spent in the office clicking a mouse and attending to the whims important and pressing needs of my customers, I decided to take advantage of the benefits of being self-employed and awarded myself a well-deserved day off. Alan did likewise, so we hit the high seas for a day of unremitting enjoyment in the wind and waves (and calm). We had a bit of everything to keep us entertained, a brisk breeze and some lumpiness upon setting out (which saw our Nordkapps friskily at play), followed by an ethereal flat calm by the end of the day.

Returning in the gloaming

Returning in the gloaming

After reaching Bute, we headed north towards the Kyles. We stopped for lunch at a nice little beach back over on the Cowal side and noted that the temperature would suggest that it wasn’t quite summer yet. As we were approaching Colintraive, Alan commented that his shoulder was beginning to hurt. Rolling practice has taken its toll, alas. I therefore resigned myself to a slightly shorter paddle than I’d been anticipating. We turned around and started heading homewards, but then Alan suggested we take a detour up Loch Striven, and very pleasant it was. Having gone some way up the loch, we worked our way back down towards Toward. After 26 km of paddling, I began to notice that I was feeling the tiniest bit exerted, and contemplated who, at this rate, would win the competition for the sorest shoulders. Alan appeared to have worked through his pain, but I was developing some new and interesting aches all of my very own. I consoled myself by focusing on the beautiful surroundings, the various seal sightings (5 total!), the birds, the peacefulness and the realisation that I was building some good conditioning for the months of paddling ahead.

Miscellaneous observations from our outing:

  • I still cannot imagine making an urgent surf landing after a full day’s paddling. As I peel my spray deck back, it takes some considerable time for me to re-engage the use of my legs. This, combined with the uneven surface of the shoreline, often reduces me to a state of near crawling on hands and knees, which is all very pathetic. Answers on a postcard please …
  • If I tweak the wrist seals of my drysuit throughout the day, it stops my hands from swelling. Good to know.
  • Sanitary products of a feminine nature do not miraculously evaporate when flushed down the toilet. If they don’t choke the sewage system, they are likely to end up floating in the sea, which is unpleasant for humans and wildlife alike. (Perhaps there is a need for an awareness campaign here).
  • To my mind, seals sound a lot like whales when they snort unexpectedly behind you.
  • Nordkapps handle chop with consummate ease.

And so on Friday, I returned refreshed and renewed to my desk … until such time as the contents of my inbox disgorged themselves on to my PC screen at least. I’m not sure if these sneaky days off truly serve the purpose of renewal, especially as I do have to make up the lost work time, or if they just leave one yearning for a lot more of the same.

“Some people say that mountain climbers are really wasting their time. They have nothing better to do so they climb mountains, tire themselves out, and come back with nothing to show for it. Yet a person who climbs a tall mountain sees the world and experiences nature in a very different way from someone who never leaves his own front door. Genuine mountain climbers do not struggle up great precipices for the glory of it. They know that glory is only a label given by others. A true climber climbs for the experience of climbing.” Ch’an Master Sheng-yen,

Goodbye QE2 (and thanks for the ride!)

The QE2 sailed back to her birthplace on the Clyde one last time today, before heading for retirement as a floating hotel in Dubai. This was quite a momentous event – almost as momentous as her 40th birthday celebrations last year, which we had also thought was her last visit to the Clyde. I still haven’t really determined if I got that wrong, or everyone else did. Nonetheless, it’s always good to see the QE2 again and to feel the pride (and poignancy) of knowing that such a splendid vessel is Clyde-built.

Thar she blows! (And so does the QE2)

Thar she blows! (And so does the QE2)

So today we decided to join in the festivities on the water, especially seeing that it was a fittingly beautiful, sunny day. Moments after spotting the QE2 with her escort, HMS Manchester, from our house as large dots on the horizon, we headed down to launch at Cluniter in Innellan. We knew that it wouldn’t be long before we were alongside both ships, although perhaps not in the strictest sense. A few things prevented us from getting up too close, including the exclusion zone in operation (had we known about it), but mostly the prospect of being mowed down by the behemoth vessels (and entourage of followers) with which we found ourselves sharing the Clyde.

Sure enough, the celebrity liner, her military bodyguard and flotilla of fans and paparazzi sailed grandly past, a couple of miles to our starboard, as we stuck to the quiet side of the river. We took photos and listened avidly to the greatly increased VHF radio traffic which served to heighten the sense of occasion. Helicopters, including the Royal Navy’s, flew directly above us – I’d like to think they found us interesting had seen us, but we resisted the temptation to wave lest an airman were to urgently descend on a rope to perform a rescue (things not to do …). Certainly, if we had planned on having an emergency, today would have been a good day to do it, being that there were any number of potential rescue vessels and aircraft in the vicinity.

QE2 and HMS Manchester (swell to follow)

QE2 and HMS Manchester (swell to follow)

As it became apparent that we couldn’t quite match the speed of the QE2 and her fleet, we dropped back to our usual more leisurely 3-4 knots, but soon discovered that the real fun was only just starting! Suddenly we became aware of a significant and increasing swell. It soon became quite reminiscent of our trip to Lewis as we bounced up and down on the wake generated by the QE2 and her fleet. Well, perhaps the swells weren’t quite as high as those experienced in Lewis, but we estimate a good metre’s worth and certainly enough to give our Nordkapps their first experience of something resembling “conditions”. What fun it was! Finally we had confirmation of the Nordkapps’ legendary solid handling of waves and neither of us felt at all uncomfortable or nervous. I would go as far as to say that I felt less anxious than when in my Capella, but of course time and a little experience could have helped a bit with that.

It was with disappointment that we determined that the swell had diminished by the time we approached Dunoon. Once again, the entertainment was provided by the radio traffic. I had been noting communication with the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and started to speculate that it was still to sail up-river, which could only mean one thing – more swell! Sadly, however, it came into view in the vicinity of the Tail o’ the Bank having anchored there stealthily outwith our awareness (perhaps sailing up yesterday when we could scarcely see across the river due to poor weather).

Beautiful Holy Loch

Beautiful Holy Loch

We cruised past Dunoon and on to Hunter’s Quay, paddling briskly past both ferry stops (never good places to linger). As we turned into the Holy Loch, we were once again reminded of the magnificent scenery right on our doorstep and we took a few moments there to fuel up on snacks for the return journey. Conditions were by now completely calm and, it must be said that, despite the sunshine, the scenery, the wildlife etc, we did feel a small sense of anti-climax in the knowledge that the excitement experienced on the outward journey would not be forthcoming on the return.

Still, it was good to turn our attention to the less temporary visitors and residents of the Clyde, being the birds and the seals. I spotted a few turnstones and stopped to watch them shuffle about the shore line whilst Alan was visited by a seal. There were all the usual cast and crew of eider ducks, cormorants, oystercatchers and gulls – all no doubt wondering what the fuss and noise were about.

The CalMac ferry’s hourly sailing appeared to have been delayed, so we paddled under Dunoon pier and around the linkspan to avoid the risk of being caught up in any sudden departures. A leisurely journey back to Innellan saw us home by 4 pm, having been on the water since 10 am. A little stiffness was noted as we clambered out of our kayaks and I have still to determine how this will translate when potentially making a speedy exit during a surf landing (yet to be experienced). I imagine a lot of flailing and cursing may be involved.

As I type this, the QE2 is due to make her final sail down the Clyde any minute now. I’m certain a little lump will come to the throat as we bid her farewell for the last time (this time) and say good bye to a grand Scottish lady. We will remember her fondly, not least because of the fun she provided 2 tiny kayaks sharing her waters on this special day.