Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bespoke Sea Kayaking - North Wales, Anglesey

Bespoke sea kayaking is for you and set at your pace.  Its specific based on what you want and need to achieve your goals.  Its a great way to fast track your skill, ability, confidence, knowledge and understanding.  For example, Andrew started sea kayaking on a Bespoke Intro course, last August 2014 and after only four Bespoke sea kayaking days, he's really getting to grips with it all.  Having recently bought a sea kayak that works really well for him and he's comfortable with.  He's now looking forward to spending more time on the water

Puffin Island seemed the right and best location, with some wind (but also protected), gentle swell, 3.5-4 knots of current, bird life and not to forget the seals!
Eddy turns, ferry glides and stern rudders ... 

We saw over a dozen Puffins and these 3 got close enough for a photo ....

Bespoke can also be for a small group of friends or a club. This can be a general social activity or it can have a specific focus.  Mandy organised a weekend for her kayak club and booked some super sunny weather too ...  this has been a fairly regular year event.  This year, due to calmer seas and a sunny blue sky, more current and flow could be experienced.

Rhoscolyn the first day and eddy turns, with keeping momentum ... Mandy below, enjoying the moment ...

Cliff moving down through the gentle race ... and after 3 years of not being in a sea kayak!

Denzil ....

Simon working his way towards the eddy, at Rhoscolyn Beacon ...

Then on to caves, gullies and arches ...

After a reflection on the day and a ponder of Sundays forecast.  Puffin Island seemed like a super location.  NW wind Bf 3/4 and the current flooding for best part of the day - wind with tide ... seals and lots of birds zooming about ...

A big flock of Oyster Catchers, were just stunning to watch.  With there red beaks bobbing up and down ...

It had been a super weekend and there's even talk of a weeks sea kayaking in Scotland for next year ... Happy days .. ;)

Currently I have a few mid week days which are available for Bespoke sea kayak coaching in June.  Contact me for more information or to find a suitable day.


Friday, 22 May 2015

The Roof of Britain - The final episode! With Coastal Spirit and 'One BIG Adventure'

Helmsdale - Corpach

Day 17, 4 May, Helmsdale to Balintore, 49k

After having spent another rainy storm day (day 6...) off the water (5h in a Cafe.. thanks "Thyme and Plaice") - we now really needed good long days on the water so the blog lost its priority somewhat ...

Rested and well fed we paddle into a headwind along the coast to Brora. We seem to be crawling along, and it takes 3 hours to cover the first 13 km. Just before we reach Brora the wind drops – happy days! (Guess who said that?) We decide to make the 18km crossing to Tarbat Ness in the gentle NE swell. Our plan to land shortly after Tarbat Ness is destroyed by the swell pounding on various jetties. We prepare ourselves for a nightnav, dig out headtorches and have a quick food break. It is a fantastic evening with fantastic light and silver clouds – a stunning sunset-lit sea and landscape surrounds us as the light changes from one minute to the next. We cover about further 10 km, keeping an eye on the shore for possible landing spots. Just as it begins to get dark we spot a green light ahead and the shadow of a harbour wall. Shandwick Harbour / Balintore! Despite the fact we were all quite excited about the idea of a night nav, we are actually quite relieved to slip through the narrow entrance – Anita managing a wave well that tries to surf her into the harbor wall …
Boats out, tents up at 23.00, thanks Roger for the quick freeze dried meals :-), and bed just after midnight.

Days 18 – 20, 5-7 May, Balintore to Cromarty 13k
Up early the next morning to beat the wind to Inverness. The wind picked up early and as we reach Cromaty we decide to stay here and sit out the storm that is forecasted for the next two days. Great pizzas at Sutors Creek cafe and a very comfortable rental cottage are the perfect infrastructure to get ready for the next lap of trip to Inverness and the Great Glen.

Day 21 – 25, 8 – 12 May, Cromarty to Corpach – The Great Glen 42k + 57k + 32k
Thanks to another early start the tide carries us down the Moray Firth to Inverness. Just before the first lock we spot a Bottlenose Dolphin! Good bye East coast, we are in the Great Glen! Very soon - after 500 m - it becomes obvious we are more used to sea paddling than portaging ... and we destroy Roger’s trolley and learn the hard way there is no need to portage a swing bridge ;). Campsites in the Great Glen provide us with the luxury of showers, nice flat grassy patches for our tents and comfortable picnic areas, with even a floating pub to meet Sonja and Liz!

Loch Ness in mirror-like conditions seems endless. The vision of ice creams in Fort Augustus motivate us for the last couple of miles. Unfortunately the best it could deliver was from the local garage! Loch Oich – more interesting and very picturesque - and Loch Lochy in wind and deluging rain. By the time we reach Neptune’s Staircases we have become experts in portaging, but are nevertheless glad we pass the flight of locks downhill!

At the sealock at Corpach we have a short celebration jig in the pouring rain - we are back on the West coast and back on the sea!

190 km away from Skye Bridge and yet another low pressure and storms are forecasted. In the heavy rain and treading in the already very soggy grass by the locks we vote for accommodation in Smiddy's bunkhouse - another 2 days land-bound ...

With our end date drawing closer and closer it will take an extraordinary finish to reach Skye Bridge on May 16th - or even 15th because of the next front coming in.

(by Anita and Sarah)

The last three days …

Day 26, 13 May 2015 Corpach to Lochaline, 68k

We got our boats ready on the beach the night before for an “on the water for 06:00 start” – this means alarms at 04.30. Since we were staying in a hostel Roger cooked scrambled eggs (from his own chickens in Wales delivered by “Sonja express” – thanks Sonja!) and beans on toast. Yummy! We’ve a long way to go (190 km) and only 4 days left for the trip, with only 3 days before the weather is forecast to be horrendous again … A race against the weather!

Despite our efforts we’re off and on our way 15 minutes late … Paddling down to the Corran Narrows we have good tide flowing with us and we quickly catch this up and arrive early. Sadly though there isn’t much flow through the gap (no eddies for Tavi to play in ). We paddle on past Shuna Island and to the top of Lismore Island where we call into Port Appin for a very nice lunch with Damian’s parents …

Sarah’s skeg cord has snapped and after lunch she starts a repair.  It ends up being really difficult and takes over an hour.  Our lunch break turns into 3 hours, rather more than we’d hoped for! 

We set off eventually for the Sound of Mull, another 20 km on, passing first the north coast of Lismore with the view to the south slowly opening up. The tide is with us until the Sound but then it’s against us. Despite the fact that it’s now quite late we press on, camping next to an abandoned castle at Ardtornish Point just before Lochaline. It’s our largest distance to date … 68 km.
It is a beautiful spot and we enjoy our evening meal watching the porpoises play in the tidal stream close by.

Alarms are set for 04.30 again … we need to get going in good time to reach our goal – we’re to be ready and paddling at 06.00 again.

Day 27, 14 May 2015 Lochaline to Gortenachullish - Back of Kappoch, 74km

We’re early! Off paddling by 05.50 and making our way towards Tobermory on the Isle of Mull with the wind on our backs. At Tobermory we stop for the real essentials of life: water, egg and bacon rolls, and coffee. Mmmm.

Leaving the brightly coloured houses behind the wind drops and we round Ardnamurchan Point in a very light breeze. Yachts beyond out at Rum and Eigg show more wind and a very different direction. We paddle round the point into a light headwind … and here have a planning session afloat. The forecast from the café in Mull points us towards Arisaig (I knew visiting that café would be worthwhile!) instead of out to Eigg – our original plan.

We start the 20 km crossing and know the early finish for the day we’d hoped for has evaporated. We’re by now well used to crossings and settle into our usual 5 mins stop per hour – I even find one of my renowned rocket fuel bars to munch!

Shortly after leaving Adnamurchan Lighthouse we spot flocks of birds in the distance. As we move closer we are surrounded by hundreds of Manx Shearwaters, diving and circling around us. Later during the crossing we even see a Minke whale – what an amazing sight that makes a great day perfect!

We paddle on past the islands near Arisaig heading for the public campsite at Back of Kappoch. By our last kilometre we’re all pretty tired (maybe not Roger?), and I for one bizarrely have blisters on my heels as well as sore feet. It’s our longest paddling day (again!), 74 km.  We are rewarded by a great sunset from our tents and a wonderful view of white sandy beaches and the islands.

And I have to say a big thank you to Roger for the gnocchi he cooked that night as I was struggling with doing tidal planning for the next day …

Day 28, 15 May 2015 Gortenachullish Back of Kappoch,  to Skye Bridge, 48km

For me this was the hardest day of the expedition. Not it seems because my body’s tired – even Roger commented he found it hard to keep up with me at one point – but rather because my brain is fuddled by lack of sleep, which means it’s really hard to concentrate.

We’d negotiated a lie in – to 05.30, so I wake up at 03.30 instead. Nice one body – thanks! The forecast is for F4-6 increasing to 6-7 later in the day with the wind behind us from the south.

We start off paddling to Mallaig, 10 km to the north, making short work of it as we’re all surfing with the wind behind. We stop briefly for a snack. We paddle onto the Loch Nevis crossing – apparently called “Heaven”. The original plan is to work 2-3 km along the coast until the loch narrows and then cross. I suggest it looks good where we are and so we cross straight over. By the end of the crossing waves are hitting us from behind and the side and in my fuddled state I’m regretting the suggestion.

We paddle onto Loch Hourn and the crossing known as “Hell”. At this point if I’d have been alone I’d have got off the water as I feel really tired. I try and negotiate a shorter crossing by working along the coast in the same way as had been suggested at Heaven, but Roger’s not keen. I suspect that F6-7 forecast at 16:00 is in his mind. We decide to do the straight crossing to the Sandaig Islands: actually it’s only 6 km. This is where I discover it’s sleep I’m lacking rather than my body being tired, and I find I’m leaving Roger and the group behind and have to slow down …

It’s paddling I would normally have loved – ending with nice big waves near the islands with the odd brace needed here and there – and even feeling as I do, I manage to enjoy it!

We head then for some pylons beyond Kyle Rhea and I rally sufficiently to play briefly on the fast flow (note to self – definitely worth another visit!). Inquisitive seals come to check us out and see us out of the sound. The last bit as always feels furthest and the wind starts to pick up as we cross Loch na Beiste. But we eventually arrive at Skye Bridge before the wind really starts howling, and we head for a café.

Unloading the kayaks, it seems unreal that we have spent the last 4 weeks paddling in so many different conditions, the impressive wildlife and stunning scenery, sometimes pushing us to our limits. It will take a while to sink in …

We’ve done it – the Roof of Britain – well done all! It’s been a truly epic trip and we owe huge thanks to Roger for making it happen!

Back in the café I insist we are having 2nd lunch, (however the others are very happy with this!!) despite the fact that it’s 4pm! I know I’ll need another meal soon …

(by Tavi)

Many shared our enthusiasm during the last 4 weeks. We owe thanks to the people supporting us during the trip. Special thanks to:

-        Sonja, Craig and Barry for providing us with forecasts (even if the contents didn’t always please us ;) !) and other useful information.
-        Sonja for the amazing cake, eggs and more!
-        Willy for the much needed lift out of our “trap” in Smoo Cave
-        Everyone who donated – you helped Tavi raise more than £1300 for Alzheimer’s Research UK
-        last but not least Roger – for just everything!!

To read the first Blog of the expedition, have a look here

Roger would like to finally thank :

~ Hilleberg the tent maker for a solid solo tent
~ Kokatat paddling wear for reliable paddling kit
~ Sarah, Anita and Tavi for putting the hard work in, even when the final goal looked far away!


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cheri and Turner dates for June in the UK!


Friday June 12th, Saturday June 13th and Sunday June 14th
We are working with Rob McIntyre from South West Sea Kayaking, and Rhoda Daniel’s of Dyers Farm to offer this 3 day Greenland Intensive in the Devon area.  We stay at the lovely Dyers Farm and there is also room for others at this accommodation. 



Friday, June 19th, Saturday, June 20th, and Sunday June 21st
We are very excited to be returning to Pembrokeshire.


Friday June 26th, Saturday June 27th and Sunday June 28th
We’re again returning to one of our favorite paddling destinations on the planet, specific location TBD by the weather as usual!
 Interested?  ... then contact -


Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Roof of Britain with Coastal Spirit.....Series Catch up Episode 4!

Day 14. Friday 1st May 2015. 62km.
Thurso to Staxigoe via the Pentland Firth and Duncansby Head.

Long awaited, the Pentland Firth and the Men of Mey. Our biggest day so far, but even so we had a 4 hour siesta in the sun. It was a day that didn't go to plan. We started early 05:45 to round Dunnet Head at 08.00. All good, we had the flow with us and we were ahead of plan. Dunnet Head was golden in the sunshine. Happy days!

We paddled to the beach at Little Clett and had a short break on the pretty beach. From here on though despite the main tide flowing to the east we were in continual back eddies against us and the planned timings began to unravel.

Heading for the Merry Men of Mey tiderace it was clear we were going to be late. We worked hard against flow. Beasting #1! 20 minutes late at the tiderace and 40 minutes before slack and there was no tiderace to be seen, just rocks. Disappointing!

From here we could see that the main Firth was already flowing against us so we worked along the shore hoping we could sneak around Duncansby Head against the flow. Arriving 50 minutes after the tide turned it was clear we had no chance: the flow was moving like an express train right next to the headland. We retreated for that enforced siesta in the sun at the bay of Sannick.

We went for a stroll up to the lighthouse and saw our first glimpses of the east coast. It looked stunning!

We decided to head up to Duncansby Head an hour an a quarter before the tide turned to flow with us fully expecting to sit in the eddy waiting. Surprisingly flow had moved offshore and while the main tiderace was still pumping we paddled around the headland easily.

Duncansby Head is the most AMAZING gateway to the east coast. Stunning stacks, magical channels, caves to die for and arches. Simply mind blowing!! Can't recommend this section of coast highly enough!!!

But for us onwards, first to Skirza Head and then at 18:00 a suggestion, shall we just paddle towards the headland Noss Head in the distance? It has over falls and is a tidal gateway and would be open. It looked a long way off. We decided to go for it and reassess after 90 minutes. But to be honest there was no plan B as a major surf beach stretched along the shore... We had to make it!

And so we started the 2nd beasting of the day! Luckily I had a good stock of snacks for our hourly breaks including one that turned out to be rocket fuel, a dark chocolate and marzipan bar! Mmm!

Just over an hour and a half later and we were there, and then onwards around the headland into Staxigoe just before dark. A lovely campsite with flat grass, picnic benches and sand. Despite the 14 hour day we were to stay here for less than 10 hours before setting off again. The weather isn't being kind to us, but we're really using what we have. We were all really pleased with the 62km mileage. A record for most of us. Again the day ended with big smiles and a few aching muscles!

Day 15 Saturday 2nd May 2015

"We are up early again to beat the wind to getting to Helmsdale or as far as we can get. Ice in our mugs shows that temperatures were well below 0 in the night. The sun is welcome on the horizon as we pack boats and head south. The wind is light to start with, pushing us gently - but forecasts report 5 Bft. and swell from East for the afternoon. The colours are amazing today, sunshine, and various blues in sky and water. The cliffs reflect the waves creating clapotis and haystacks that explode in the air. We plough through in our loaded kayaks. The cliffs in many shades of brown, lots of greens with yellow flashes of gorse bushes on the hills. Waterfalls come down, adding to the perfect scene. We stop at Lybster harbour - lunch at the coffee shop in the sun!! Once a busy fishing harbour it's a quiet place today. We also fill up our water supplies before we head on.
At Dunbeath we decide to push on. Its 2pm and the wind is picking up a bit, but we want to try and reach Helmsdale. The 20km that follow are exciting paddling! The stacks and cliffs awesome, thousands of seabirds soaring around us, the waves and swell keep us alert, ready to brace or accelerate at the right moment.
Anita spots 2 dolphins close to her boat! The last 5 km are in a tail wind of F5 - with breakers crashing onto the reefs to our right. All of a sudden Sarah sees Tavi's boat upside down - she got knocked over by a big breaker. On the 3rd attempt she rolls up -after 50km, with a loaded boat, having a big waterbag in the cockpit and the helmet on the backdeck! - well done Tavi!!
We reach Helmsdale just as the wind picks up more. We land and find a campsite spot out of the wind behind a bridge pillar. What a day! 57 km in these conditions - sea kayaking at its best!
And what's more, we are now half way around the Roof. Celebratory fish and chips with a beer for all!"

Sarah, Anita and Tavi.