Mini Expedition-Isle of Wight Circumnavigation

One of the things I love about sea kayaking is being able to pack it full of camping gear and head off for a few days escape. Being self sufficient like this for me brings about a sense of inner peace and I love it. The escape this weekend will be a two day overnighter to circumnavigate Britain’s largest island – The Isle of Wight.

It’s a challenging trip to do the 100km in a weekend, involving getting the tides right and at this time of year paddling a lot of it in the dark. It’s not all hard slog though, as you do get time to chill out while waiting for the tides to come right. Check out some of the photos and a few more words over on my regular blog.

Sunset on the south coast

Isle of Wight circumnavigation gps track

100km full circle over the weekend - fabulous

Day out training to Flat Holm and Steep Holm

Paddling across any part of the Bristol Channel can be quite challenging due to its fairly rapid stream rate and huge tidal range, this becomes more so when it’s a spring tide like today.
The exercise consists of a 26km (14Nm) paddle broken up with a walk about on Steep Holm. I’ve written a few words about it with more pics here.

Looking out into the Bristol Channel from Penarth towards Flat Holm (L) and Steep Holm (R)

Brief stop off on Flat Holm for a hot drink and a snack

Looking from Steep Holm across to Brean Down over the fast flowing ebb

Rudder Rock at western end of Steep Holm

A 26km round trip

Porlock Weir and the Maiden Voyage of the green beastie

With Paul licking his wounds after his unfortunate accident he was feeling really down and quite gutted at having to miss out on his planned training in Anglesey this weekend. This was to have been followed by his four star assessment the following weekend. Couldn’t have happened at a worse time for him. :(

I was eager to get out on the water with the Jolly Green Giant and get some familiarising miles under my belt. The weather looked good for both Saturday and Sunday and I really wanted to take advantage of it with an overnight trip of some sort. Stuart had been in contact to ask if I’d like to go with him and Taran to Flatholm – I’d love to normally but really wanted something to get my teeth into and with a gift of two days low wind I asked if he’d prefer to join me fora challenging journey over the Bristol Channel to Porlock Weir, camp the night and return on Sunday. Besides we could all have a lie in Saturday morning and start later in the afternoon than his Holm trip and be back by lunch on Sunday. All sounded good.

So the three of us met up at for a 1330 launch at St Donat’s.

Stuart and Taran preparing to leave the green green grass of home

After loading up all the gear for an overnight trip, (the Cetus HV can only be described as cavernous as it swallowed up all the gear without effort), we set off towards England. Couldn’t see it mind you, it was “over there” beyond the mist. There is something quite special about staring off on a crossing when you can’t see the other side, anticipation of where you will actually end up and the satisfaction when your navigation works out.

Once you start on a crossing like this, there is not much sight seeing. We don’t talk much as we get our heads down and into the paddling zone. We do get to see a group of three gannets fly over, which we thought was a bit early for them.

Stuart approaching Porlock Weir

Taran following up behind as we approach the dried out Porlock Weir

3hrs 15 mins later we are landing our boats at Porlock Weir. My God it’s cold on the hands when we stop!

It's a long tiring carry after paddling all this way!

It’s a cruel horrible carry up the beach that seems to go on for ever . . . and it’s getting cold as the sun has lost all it’s heat and is heading past the horizon. Porlock Weir being on the North of the Somerset coast doesn’t get direct sunshine as it’s tucked in behind the Exmoor plateaux so it’s not surprising that the grass still has a little bit of frost on it when we start to set up our tents for the night.

The top of the beach at Porlock Weir

Setting up camp near the pub for refreshments

Changing swiftly out of sweaty paddling gear to stop the rapid onset of cold that’s occurring, we retreat into our tents to stuff warm food in our stomachs. After an appropriate amount of chill out time the call of the public house is heard and we head over to sit in front of the log fire and warm our cockles while enjoying a pint of ale.

Taran and Stuart warming up by the fire

It doesn’t take long for me to start nodding off, so I decide to head over to get my head down for some kip – to be woken around midnight by a massive bang and a whole load of fireworks being let off. It was the wedding party at the hotel enjoying a finale to their days celebrations. And what a cracking calm and clear night it was too!

Up at the crack of dawn to catch the tide right for our return – not so far to portage he boats thank goodness.

Getting the boats to the water in the morning to launch isn't quite the arduous that getting them out was

Stuart heading out of Porlock Bay

Taran and Stuart heading home to Wales

Progress across is as on the first leg, except that the wind picks up slightly to provide a few white horses. In the distance we spot what looks like a couple of mast, but as we draw closer the top signs of cardinal buoys are made out. Well I hadn’t known these were here! Just goes to show that we need to continually check up for updates of our charts. There are updates posted on the Admiralty web site for each chart that they produce so you can pencil in new buoys. I’ve since found out that the position of a new wreck had been found and four cardinals had been set up to mark it’s position. Two of them have subsequently been removed. I logged their coordinates to transfer onto my chart later.

Didn't notice this one before

With a force 4 cross wind and semi loaded boat it was really quite a pleasant surprise to find out something regarding the skeg on the Cetus HV. My normal application of skeg in this situation is full on with the Cappella, but hey what’s this, the HV was lee cocking! I had to double and triple check this!! It certainly was, in fact I had to back the skeg right off to about 1/3 its travel (4 clicks out of 12). Another thing about the skeg control is that it is ultra ultra light, but I’ll touch on that sometime when I go over the boat in another post.

We arrive back at St Donat’s after another 3hrs 15mins doing the reverse crossing. We had to work hard though to get back in to the shelter of the bay and not overshoot into Nash Sound as the tide was starting to really rip as we approached the Welsh coast. But we got there.

Taran Taran Tarra Easy Peasy - Taran arrives back home -

Just over 26Nm in 6.5 hours across a spring tide

Have a read of both Stuart and Taran’s take on the trip. It seems they both enjoyed it. I certainly did.


Heard the alarming news today that Paul tried to ride a unicycle. This was I might add totally unintentional. His bike ride started with two wheels, but the front one decided to detach its self as he was traveling at some speed down hill. The ensuing incident, although exceedingly comical to imagine, culminated in a broken wrist and broken elbow.

Consultant will be consulted on Monday . . .

Transportation – Cetus HV

It was with great anticipation and excitement that I woke this morning to begin my long journey “up north” to the factory of P&H at West Hallam in Derbyshire. Here is where a small dedicated team of craftsmen crack the moulds to give birth to their hand made composite boats.

Simon and Geoff - creators of my trusty transport

I have it on good authority that this is most definitely not a Friday boat – it’s a Thursday boat. Not that it would make any difference. Had the pleasure of meeting Geoff and Simon at P&H who actually built my boat with their own (fair) hands.

The boat is a Cetus HV. It is slightly bigger in volume than the original Cetus, and has a newly modified version of the string and elastic skeg system. This particular version has a custom bulkhead not just to accommodate my unfeasibly short legs but also to mount the foot pump to. This equates to a larger volume of front hatch space and less cockpit space beyond my feet. Given the expected abuse a keel strip has been fitted. Foot pegs are glassed in Yakima variety.

The seat is a bit different it is the one normally fitted to the surf specific Delphin. It’s called a Connect seat. I came across it when I tried out the surf specific Delphin at the Storm Gathering in Anglesey last October, it was very comfortable and snug, so I asked if it was possible to fit it in the Cetus. P&H obliged and got one to fit.

I’ll be returning to look at the boat in more detail but for the moment I’m stroking it’s shiny gell coat and have my head in the hatches sniffing the smell of fresh fibreglass work.

It looks fantastic.

A big thanks To Liz and Pez at P&H for making it all happen, Thanks guys. I am so looking forward to getting out on the water in it.

Geoff, Pez and Simon with the newly birthed Cetus HV

Man up to Man Flu

As luck would have it the recent bout of bad weather coincided nicely with a first dose of some nasty little virus that was being passed around these parts, consequently there hasn’t been much opportunity to get out on the water. After it passed with the help of some strong peaty northern gold brew, a week of respite and feeling great it came back for a second go. At the tail end of it and not feeling quite 100% it was debatable if an invitation to go paddling by a local paddler and blogger Stuart, was a good thing to accept. Cabin bound fever and a fair forecast for the morning together with the passing of aches and pains was to much for my weak mind. I succumbed to the fresh air, whether any of it would actually reach my air sacks would be another matter entirely.

A short trip from Llantwit Major to Dunraven Bay with a race against time to get around the fast flowing Nash Point turned out to be the offing. Have a read and look at the pics over here. Certainly was an entertaining trip.

Flat calm paddling - you think!

Cockney-shell Heros on The Thames Tideway

A reciprocated visit to paddle on Paul’s patch is duly accepted. Streets, or rather waterways, of London here I come.

Friday night is curry night and a fine prerequisite to a full days paddling.

The weekend dawn is just breaking as we arrive ready to get on the water at Chiswick. It’s quite a chilly morning, actually really cold. We have to be careful not to slip on the pontoon at the put in due to the thin layer of white powdered frost. It’s so cold that while boats and kit are being sorted I have to stand in my boat to keep my toes from freezing.

The Motley Crew: David Mattingley, Roger Wiltshire, Jen Clough, Paul Lazenby-Barrett, Carlo Briffa, Jason Cole and Jason Paul Tolmie.

Roger getting set on a chilly January morning

The early morning Thames scene is quite enchanting. A beautiful wispy mist rises off the water, and through it the appearance of other rowers that have got on the water well before us. Dedicated nutters!

I have to admit to being quite excited when I starting to see the famous sights of London from the water. Like the first trip to London as a kid, I remember then being vaguely in awe at the busy-ness and magnitude of the place. The low morning winter light was amazing on the historic monuments and tourist spots.

Dawn Raid at the break of dawn on the misty and enchanting Thames Tideway

The Tideway isn’t a docile little river paddle by any means, definitely need to keep your whits about you. It’s a very busy waterway with ferries buzzing about throwing up small but beautifully barrelling surf waves on some of the sloping banks, and various static obstacles to be aware of. The tide doesn’t hang about and produces some locations where there is a little lively water.

Musically iconic grade II listed power station at Battersea

Battersea power station – - over 500MW of power generated from the two goal fired – - what an Animal!. Designed by the same industrial designer and architect, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott,  who designed the iconic red telephone box.

London metropolis - Westminster Bridge

A few heads have nodded off here. Hear! Hear! - Houses of Parliament otherwise known as Westminster Palace

The Golden Hind - 1577-1580 circumnavigated the globe under the captaincy of Sir Francis Drake

Don't see this from the gold paved streets above

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast and a group of Cockneyshell Heros

Here-on on the Thames

The Millennium Dome

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and finished 1710

Must have cringed to think his design was so close to the Millennium or “Wobbly” Bridge.

St Paul's cathedral

You are being watched -The London Eye

Vauxhall Bridge detail

A few heads have rolled here - The Tower of London

Anybody having the opportunity to paddle the Thames Tideway should grab it with both hands as at least for the first time you do it it is truely

There’s some folks who always worry, and some folks who never care,
But in this world of rush and hurry it matters neither here nor there.
Be steady and realistic, don’t hanker for gold or gems,
Be carefree and optimistic, like Old Father Thames.

High in the hills, down in the dales, happy and fancy free,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, down to the mighty sea.
What does he know, what does he care? nothing for you or me,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, down to the mighty sea.

He never seems to worry, doesn’t care for Fortunes fame,
He never seems to hurry, but he gets there just the same.
Kingdoms may come, Kingdoms may go, whatever the end may be,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, down to the mighty sea.

High in the hills, down in the dales, happy and fancy free,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, down to the mighty sea.
What does he know, what does he care? nothing for you or me,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, down to the mighty sea.

He never seems to worry, doesn’t care for Fortunes fame,
He never seems to hurry, but he gets there just the same.
Kingdoms may come, Kingdoms may go, whatever the end may be,
Old Father Thames keeps rolling along, down to the mighty sea.

 Raymond Wallace and Betsy O’Hogan

Nearly 53km paddling on The Thames Tideway- a grand day out!

Chasing Rainbows for First Paddle of the Year

The current spate of exceedingly poor weather meant that the normal New Years Day paddle didn’t happen this year, so I was eager to get out on the water for a paddle at the first opportunity.

Atlantic 75

Sunday morning training with the Atlantic 75 stationed at Atlantic College, St Donats

Not the best of weather today but at least there was a small window of opportunity. No one else available it was a short solo effort from St Donats, east along the coast to Penry Bay, just short of Limpert Bay at Aberthaw.

Gold at Tresillian

Rainbow ends at Tresillian Bay, hope of some better weather?

rainbow past Llantwit

Double pots of gold? at least the sun came out for a brief moment as I cleared the spit at Col Huw Point

Aberthaw Power Station

Thick mist starts to drop, obscuring the 150m chimney of the power station

A short trip but at least an opportunity to take the Cetus out for something other than surf. 7.5Nm round trip. 1 hour each way. Against tide but with the wind on the way out, but against both on the return as the tide turned at the turnaround point at Aberthaw. Averaging just over 3.5 knots in those conditions I was pleased with the way the boat performed.

Summerhouse Point

Summerhouse Point

Cockney Visit to Wales

Paul paddles a P&H Quest LV, which after his circumnavigation of Wales last year had seen better days. It’s been dispatched up to the P&H factory in Derby for refit/renovation work to make it ready for the trip. In the mean time Paul jumps on a train, well various trains and tubes and makes the trip out of the big smoke to the sticks of South Wales.

Paddles at Waterloo

As I’ve temporary use of the demo Cetus, Paul borrows the plastic Cappella and with such atrocious weather canning any idea of a trip we decide to at least try and get on the water and head over to Porthcawl for a spot of surfing.

Bit of a Mess at Rest

No Hawking at Rest Bay

A bit swelly out there

Paul at Rest

Sorting out foot rests at Rest Bay

Paul looking for his mars bar?

At Rest bay there are understandably no surfers as the surf is blown out. We decide to give it a try but as the tide is high up and on the rocks we quickly decide after punching out that mucking about in the fairly powerful soup is going to end up with a trashed composite boat so head on over to Coney Island.

Plenty of others out on a cold December morning

Surfers line up

Dull and dismal at the line up

Coney is  protected a bit from the south westerly but is fairly crowded with boarders as there is a consistent small swell running. We give the guys plenty of room and play around for a good few hours. No real paddling but at least we got out and had a bit of fun.

surfing at Rest Baysurfing at Rest Bay

surfing at Rest Bay

surfing at Rest Bay

Raining Again

Raining - again!