Monday, 29 November 2010

Around Wales 2011 - 2nd training weekend

After 3 months since the first training weekend, our 2nd weekend was upon us. Thanks to Sonja, Friday night was spent in a camping barn and with the news saying "this was the coldest November for 17 years" it was a gentler introduction. To top it all there was a super pub, the pheasant inn just 10 minutes up the road. With the van saying it was -4 at 0830 morning, we were certainly pleased to have had the shelter of the barn!

The plan was to explore and become familiar with the estuary/canal link and test systems of carrying, portaging and lifting the sea kayaks, around the locks. The river Dee and then the Shropshire Union canal was the chosen area and despite a wintry Friday, Saturday was bright, with blue skies and one advantage of the colder temperatures was that the mud was frozen!

Here we have Paul, working his way up one of the lock staircases, I think it was a height gain of 33mts?

Having reached the top, we were met with the first patches of ice on the lock. Di is helping Sue, who is in the kayak.

Sat night saw us camping out and with a temperature at 0830 on Sunday morning of -7 I'm sure it must have been -10 during the night. Put it this way, the inner tent had ice crystals on the ceiling! Sunday, saw us return and do a lower section of the river Dee, working on forwards paddling and structured breaks, in more glorious sunshine, blue skies and no wind! Last two photos were taken by Sonja.

Just look at that reflection!

All in all a super weekend, even if I say it my self! Really impressed with the team work, openness, ideas and suggestions on different ways of trying something. May this continue. Thanks to Sonja for finding us and picking us up at short notice, when the ice wouldn't let us get any further out of Chester! and for shuttling us about over the weekend.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sicily - ferry ride and grape harvest

Thought Id look at mobile phone and see what photos I had on there, and was pleased to find a few shots of the ferry ride back from Stromboli and Paula's(Francesco's mums grape harvest)

Ride back was great and allowed time for reflection.

Well about a dozen of us worked through the rows, throwing into crates white and red grapes, these were then squeezed, with a hand operated machine and then we had a great lunch, with last years wine! Nothing is added to the vines or the grapes, so truly organic.

The grapes are then left in the large containers for a few days, and then transfer into oak turning presses. The juice is squeezed out of the grapes, which then travels down a tube into a stainless steal container (stored under the floor) to carry on its process of fermentation. It felt a great privilege to be involved in the process, which was clearly a family event.

Not a bad place to dry your kit out, with Mt Etna in the back ground!

Monday, 22 November 2010

North wales sea kayaking - Winter skills

With the weather looking fairly settled my return to Uk paddling after 50 days, was looking great. With the air temperature being around 7c, it was a significant change from last weeks 25c plus, the fingers felt it, but it was great to be out. Treadour bay on the Saturday, going back over core skills, some rock gardening and moving through the gears.

Sunday, was Rhoscolyn and a forecast of NE F4 gusting F5, well we may have had top end F3, but otherwise another super day. Exploring caves, narrow gullies, using draw strokes and working on ferry glides. A journey out to the beacon and a couple of grey seals basking in the winter sunshine, was and is always a great sight, before returning to the bay. Thanks to Tess, Ruth, Simon and Keith for a super weekend, its all ways great catching up and seeing people progress. Tess your always and inspiration.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sicily circumnavigation 2010

Earlier this year, when i was out in Sicily the potential of paddling around the island, logged in my mind ... and was very appealing. Turquoise seas, Mediterranean climate, excellent food, access to kayaks and excellent support, was just a super opportunity. With approximately 1000k of coastline, 35 days should allow enough time to paddle around. The plan was following the symposium and Francescos mums grape harvest we would begin our journey on the 11th October.

If your interested in the earlier part of our journey, we kept in contact with Francesco, who sent us weather texts and then kept his own blog, which can be viewed here , otherwise we hope you enjoy the following photos ...

Francesco highlighting camp spots and small harbours on our map.

Arrival on the 12th Oct, winds were low but the sea wasn't!

13th Oct and packing at Ognia, just N of Catania and mid way along the East coast.

10k up the coast and super volcanic structures at Aci Trezza

On the North coast Storm bound for 3 days, the sea was getting closer and we were running out of beach, but at least we had a cold water supply in the form of a shower! (mid left on the photo)

More like what we expected!

I take Sonja to all of the best places, we did have a pitza take out ... yes it was our camp for the night!

Approaching Palermo (capital city of Sicily) and being guided in by Sal, while dodging the regatta!

San vito lo capo and a storm is brewing

Now on the West coast and South of Trapani

One of those rougher days!

An early start and up before the sun

Moving down the Sicily channel (the south coast) and another early start

Crossing one of the larger bays, on a bearing and meeting a oil tanker on the way out of the 2nd oil terminal, Gela.

Having rounded the Southern most tip, Isola Capo Passero and now back on the East coast with 130k to go : )

My final day a real welcome as Mt Etna, shows her self (smoke can be seen coming from the crater, just right of the summit)

Back in Ognia and much brighter than when we started. Gianfranco texted me mid morning and asked "did I desire anything in particular for him to bring for me ... an Arancino (fast food - rice, ragu and cheese snack) and a Moretti (Italian beer) would do me fine.

While we were on our journey Gianfranco and his wife Claudia had their first child Sara, we stayed with them the last few days before we returned to the UK. Gianfranco on the left, me, Francesco and Babara (Francescos wife), just about to wet the baby,s head.

Overall the paddle took 33 days, with 11 of those being storm bound days and 22 paddle days. Due to rougher conditions than be both expected, which often resulted in difficult dumping surf landings, this placed more pressure on us both. After much pondering Sonja decided to call it a day after a respectable 750k. With 10 days left before we were due to fly back, mileage would need to be increased, which meant longer days and so earlier starts! These 10 days were soon reduced to 7 after another storm!

We would like to thank the following people for their support and help: Giuseppe for the sea kayaks provided by his company Overline and SKD. Huge thanks to Francesco who runs Maremotu for the weather texts and updates, for picking up Sonja within hours of our phone call, Babara for the cakes and making us feel welcome in their home. Vincenso and the use of Arenella and for Andrea who meet us and booked a super fish restaurant for that night. Justine for the cap (I lost mine on the symposium tour), one of her cameras (mine finally gave up, just before we began) and a lighter sleeping bag for Sonja. Gianfranco and Claudia for driving us about and looking after us before we flew back.

An article is in the pipe line which we hope will be published by the end of the year or early next with Canoe & Kayak, we hoped you enjoyed the photos and may even be inspired to visit Sicily your self.

Sicily sea kayak synposium - The Aeolian Islands

The Aeolian islands are truly beautiful and are made up of 7. We were staying for the first 4 days on Volcano, were a number of day and half day sessions, from fun and balance with Barry and Justine Greenland rolling with Cherry and Turner (they were flown over from the states) 3 star training and assessment with me, yoga for paddling, navigation, food for paddlers and a walk up Volcano, which is active and much more. Food was great, although in true Sicilian style often after 2100 :(

This photo was taken just out side the hotel and the days of the symposium were very calm.

Following the symposium the tour then commenced which was a four day paddle, from Volcano to Lipari and camping at a static site, then on Salena for a camp on the beach and then on to Stromboli and a camp close to the harbour. Lipari's West coast was stunning with many caves, a few arches and pillars.

Paddling with so many people was quite stunning and it was all very well organised with front and back markers who kept in contact by radio, plus we also had a support boat.

Paddling in such warm water was fantastic, with a swim at lunch time, a great way to cool down.

Here we have Stomboli in the distance, which was one of the longer crossings of around 3 hours and a super sea state! A couple of people used trolleys to transport there sea kayaks on to the ferry's that run between the islands, so they could then paddle around an island without having to undertake a crossing.

Thanks to Justine for the photos of Sonja and my self.
Sadly my camera then worked no more, so the highlight of the trip was seeing Stromboli in action and I really mean, it was very impressive but no camera! Hopefully over the next week or so Ill follow up on a link and be able to share some impressive active Volcano shots.
So all in all a super and varied symposium, in an amazing setting, great food and well organised by Gianfranco and Francessco of Maremotu two super guys.