off Costa Head, west coast orkney

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Blades and guns!!

I returned from my weekend away with my new Mitchell Blades touring paddles and planned a short trip to try them out on Tuesday afternoon. Never expecting it to end with me in the back of a Police car and the C.I.D department coming to my egress!!

New cranked paddles

All was quiet and I was on my own when I set off from the beach bellow Craigiefield in St Ola with a Force 2-3 Northerly wind. A short but refreshing paddle around Theives holm with a nice 2-3 knots Flood tide flowing and a little lift in the tide race to the NE of the Holm. During Flood tide a nice big Eddie appears at the East side of Theives Holm allowing a safe, familiar place to play around on a freindly but well defined eddie line.

This gave my new paddles a good work out and certainly felt secure when bracing, with a great grip on the water and a powerfull catch. They felt really good and thankfully as It is almost the most expensive piece of kit I own!!

The real excitement was yet to come though and as I returned to the beach where the van was parked my mobile was ringing, being a man I couldnt multi task (paddling and answering the phone!) I returned the call when I landed and as I was talking on the phone I noticed what looked like a toy hand gun on amongst the rocks.

After the call I took a closer look, sitting just above the water line and 10 foot or so bellow high tide mark. It was heavy and made of metal and clearly a REAL Pistol! My first thoughts were it looked like an old handgun, perhaps war time.

I decided to do the right thing and phone the local police as it could well contain live ammo. The PC's that arrived first couldnt identify the weapon so just took a statement from me in there car until C.I.D arrived. They immediatly recognised it as a 'Luger' apparently a standard issue revolver in the german navy!

The 'Luger' what it would have looked like when new

The police are now getting it tested to see if it is live and try and understand how it got there.

A different kind of ending to a paddle in a very familiar setting, one of the reasons I never get tired of just getting out in the sea!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

600 mile drive for a game of Polo!!!???

Trips away to compete in Scottish Canoe polo division 1 can be quite an epic journey. It is possible to leave on the early ferry Sunday morning and do the 300 mile trip arriving for the 4.30 start. This is asuming there is no delay on the way!

Personaly Iam not a fan of tight scheduals so we tend to leave a day or two early and use the time for some more fun!!

Me and Adam left Saturday morning in Bananavan with 5 Polo boats on the roof and two play boats (and a drum kit) in the back destined to arrive in Stirling at night with running a river on the way.

Steve Mackinnon was meeting us in the small town of Alness just of the A9 with a couple of his friends, when I pulled up and saw that these 3 experianced river runners all had creek boats I felt the butterflies flutter a wee bit!

Alness is only paddleable in spate conditions and as Steve put it 'we must have sacrafised somone in Orkney to the apese the Snow melt god!!' she was running at a good level and was a lovely fast bouncy grade 2-3+ with a few river wide stoppers and pour overs..

Despite this only being Adams second river he nailed it with only one little mishap.. Not his fault though...

That was done and dusted in 45 minutes and we hit the road again not even 2 hours after we had pulled over.

sexy new blades!

The next day saw a trip to Brookbank so I could 'Look at' a sea paddle that I had been eyeing up on the Mitchell Blades website for a wee while now. After a painfull half hour of wanting it badly but knowing that the money would be bettter spent on boring things like bills ....I ended up buying it!

Polo was another hard graft and a couple of big defeats by two far stronger and better teams, followed by what was probably a fair 4-4 draw against the Scarlet ladys.

We then drove for 90 minutes to Pitlochry arriving just in time to catch the chipshop.
A loaded Bananavan

Monday morning and there was talks of surfing at Thurso before the ferry at night but we had 200 miles and boats to pick up from Glenmore lodge. By the time we had put 5 Polo boats, 3 river boats, 2 Open boats (one belonging to Mary S ) and a sea kayak on the the van roof we had run out of time for paddling! All in all we had a full weekend as it was.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A cold but productive weekend

The winter weather continues to bite and although I had a weekend with no other plans I still didn't manage to get out and paddle.

Instead I worked on the old Polo boats that kirkwall Kayak Club bought earlier in the year. This one is Carbon/ Fiber Glass and extremely light, but also this makes it a bit more vunerable to cracks.

I had to build a makeshift tent out of insulation and old bed sheets to contain the heat. Fiberglass needs warmth to set and it is currently -5 in the evenings!!

All set now for next weekends division 1 games!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Getting soft in my auld age!

I haven't been out paddling now for a while, mainly due to lack of time. I opted last Sunday to go for a walk along the cliff tops at Yesnaby. I came across some friends bellow!!

A little bit envious, We amused ourselves at the top!

After a really nice break in the weather last weekend Scotland seems to have been hit by a big freeze!! I will need more motivation now to get outside and get that valuable coaching hours in that I need for my level 2 assessment.

As I was writing this I nipped out and took twa photos!

Precious bananvan!

Although I have not been outdoors too much paddling I do 3 nights per week in the pool. Sundays is helping out with OSCA's training night whilst Tuesdays is Kirkwall Kayak Clubs sessions and friday nights are for Canoe Polo.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

For the past couple of months Kirkwall Kayak Club have been preparing a team to play in scottish division 1.

Mostly I have been running the coaching sessions for these which is not an easy task as I dont really know the game very well!

Orkney' A' line up for the start of the game.

We traveled away for the first 4 games last weekend, Some flew down in Torquil's private plane but I took the van down with boats on the roof and did some sea paddling whilst I could.

Giving a 'team talk'!

We quickly realsied that the jump from div' 2 to div' 1 is a massive leap in standards, losing our first 4 games.

Some of the teams have played together for almost 20 years and were very willing to give coaching and tactical advise to us after the games.

My home made polo gaols, made from 50mm drainage pipe!

Orkney 'A' play the next group of fixtures on 12th december. I am looking forward to picking up more training tips and hopefully winning our first games in div 1!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Thursday Evenining paddling restarts

Kirkwall Kayak Club resumed our Bi weekly summer paddling last Thursday.

A nice easy trip around the famous Churchill Barriers was a pleasant starter. Peter and Neil took a closer look aboard one of the block ships.

The ships were sunk during the First World War to block the channels between the Islands of Scapa Flow to protect the Navel base from German U boats.
This proved to be unsuccessful when in 1939 A German sub found a channel between the ships and hit the HMS Royal Oak with the loss of 833 men and boys. After this Winston Churchill commissioned the building of the barriers.
The barriers provided us with shelter from the cool West wind.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Coaching and canoeing

A Few weeks ago Mary organised a weekend of Open boating with Canoe coach 'Biscuit'.
Iam glad to say I thouroghly enjoyed it! The main reason for this was because he allowed us to raft up and sail for an hour os so across Scapa Flow.

Me and Neil enjoying a 'rest'.

The following weekend Me and Peter fired down to Inverness for our level 2 coach training.
Once again This was an excellent weekend. Steve Mackinnon and Dave Rositer doing a sterling job!

Prospective coaches listen to Daves breifing

Peter is missing from this photo.. I guess he will be toasting a scone or something..!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Coach Weekend.... Brilliant!

Just returned from my first two days of Level2 Canoe/Kayak coaching course so my head is buzzing!
Loads of information and some great coaching ideas to think about. This was all delivered excellently by Dave Rossiter and Steve Mackinnon. Dave is a level 5 coach and also started the outdoor centre 'Standing Waves' , his delivery was second to none backed up by steve this was an extremely usefull weekend
Daves coaching style reflects this pose perfectly!

Cant wait to go try out some of my new coaching techniques!!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Work, Wind and Snow

Pickie Terno is looking rather lost and cold lying in my front garden!
Apart from a quick dip in the swimming pool last weekend I haven't managed to get out in her this month!
I was out in the North isle of Sanday re-building a stone gable end this week. The house I was working on is called 'Strangquoy' This tidal race, which is just below the house is called the 'Lashy Sound' and looked pretty exciting this morning!
This is during an Ebb tide running against the strong force 6-7 Northerly winds that was battering us as we were building.

My workmate Damian doing the grafting while I took the photos! Bit cold for building but we were out there to do a job... Below is Lashy Sound again from a distance with the Calf of Eday behind. I haven't paddled this area yet but certainly plan to do so. During the Flood tide there are no standing waves but it does flow nice and fast!

Below is the reason that paddling got scuppered last weekend.. Orkney tradition that if you are getting married the groom gets 'Blackened'(tarred and feathered) and driven around town on the back of a lorry for all to see!.I am not the groom, before any rumours start, I just got involved with a friend's Blackening and you can't help but get in a bit of a mess !
After we all got cleaned up a large drinking session was called for (6.30 AM before I got finished..oops).

Although the wind and snow has returned with vengeance today I really must get out on the sea.. I bought a dry suit weeks ago and have a 4* Leader assessment to get ready for in April!..

Sunday, 7 February 2010

More polo training

Friday evening canoe Polo training, the hardest part being I cant have my after work Guinness till after 10 O' clock! Murder!!! Anyway we had a job to do this week so Graham and me turned up early to stick up our Polo goals that we had made..

Peter guarding my Hepworth goals..

Mine was the lightest so we worked with them as we didn't have much time to spare. Hepworth sink drain pipe was what i used, Graham opted for 2 Inch scaffold pole with key clamp corners! having proper goals will hopefully improve everyone's shooting skills. No one needs that more than myself!Add Image

Graham looking pleased with himself..(I'm scared when he is smiling!)

Although I enjoyed this training session, being quite structured with a proper warm up, ball control practice, an over view of some more rules and a good competitive game, I feel I didn't play very well. Schoolboy errors going for the ball with my paddle, over shooting it and a few dodgy passes. Basically due to a lack of practice and perhaps now I'am starting to take what we do a bit more seriously, knowing that you cant make those errors next week at the Div 2 games.

I like this photo, looks like someone is actually listening to what I am saying..

We have another practise next Friday, then it is our second Polo session of the league on Sunday, I cant wait!

I have also realised that I am getting seriously soft and believe it must be the influence of the 'Far side' who are joining our club.. I bought a 'Dry suit' this week!! Scary..Soon i will have to feel the need to tie my paddle to myself when paddling at Scapa peir!! No, Never..!

On a serious note I like to keep loose rope and cords to a minimum as they are defiantly a danger when upside doon!

I will head out for a walk now its a beautifull day. Scotland v France then!!! Whoop!

Send them home wards tae think again!!

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Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Polo Goals and Eskimo Rolls....

Whit? no paddle? That's no possible!

Tuesday night in Kirkwall mean KKC pool sessions! Tonight me and graham Summers were going to have a talk about the putting up of Canoe Polo goals in kirkwall swimming pool, so I was hoping our session would be slightly quieter than the 40 people who turned up last week!!

The return of sub zero temp's and snow to orkney kept the numbers lower this week but still a healthy number of hardies braved the elements.

Keen learners

We had one of those long discussions about hanging the goals and decided that we didn't need to speak about anything we just needed to DO IT! So that's what we will do... but another day!!

Dennis demonstrates a nice roll!

It seemed that rolling was the order of the evening and as i looked around there seemed to be more upside-doon boats than the right way up most of the night.. i didn't do a big lot of coaching myself tonight as everyone seemed quite wrapped up in their own self appointed tasks..

Colin makes a successful up righting.

It might be a bit of a cop-out but I quite enjoy watching folk trying their own things and just feeding small bis of info or tips as they go. its also a good way of learning how other people figure thins out for themselves.. everyone seems to do this completely different.

hope you don't mind me putting this in MR B. you were almost up here, after Peter had handed you the paddle when you were already capsized great effort! We all do it though when under pressure for a breath ofair sit up a bit quicker than we would normaly..

Lots of folk put in good work tonight and it was all smiles when in helgies for an apre paddle beverage!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Epic paddle

I haven't been paddling this weekend, So I thought I would speak about a sponsored KKC paddle that four of us more experienced members did back in 2008.

Lovely day for it

1998 was a poor year weather wise, and for this this trip the tides had to be right. We were planning to paddle from Stromness to Kirkwall, via the western coast which as any local will know is very exposed. Any westerly motion can make this trip VERY bouncy and pretty much a suicide mission on the wrong day! In saying this it is also a very spectacular stretch of water and a trip we all really wanted to do.

Having a deserved cup o' tea at the Broch

After a pretty poor summer we had to cancel the trip on a couple of occasions. We needed to leave Stromness with the Ebb tide in the morning and catch the Flood through the Eynhallow sound. This however was not to be as the weekends were fast running out and evening light was getting poorer. So we set off on a calm October morning against the tide in the Hoy sound. Fortunately they were Neap tides and we hugged the coast until we reached the skerries and navigated through the breaking surf.

Me in the faithful Nordkapp

It was evident that the South Westerly wind from the previous few days had kicked up quite a swell. After we came out of the Hoy sound we headed out and paddled half a Mile of the craigs as the confused back swell was a little less prominent out there. This for me was the hardest part of the day. But as we rounded the coast towards Yesnaby stack the 2-3 meter swell became more manageable. Our first tea break was on Skaill Beach and by this time the large swell had all bu subsided. Roughly 3 hours since we left Stromness it felt good to stretch legs and spend a penny!

John in the Westerly swell

The next leg was around marwick head and to the Broch o' Birsay Largly uneventful but the last 2-3 Nautical miles was a following sea and great fun for a but of surf.

When we were finishing our cups of tea I spotted my fathers Yacht on in the distance so jumped in the boat and paddled out to meet them. They had planned to accompany us till at least Eynhallow sound. It was easy to see how hard kayakers are to spot on the sea as they couldn't see us for a while even though they were looking for us.

John in the Hoy Sound

Through the Eynhallow in Ebb tide can often be a crazy ride of standing waves and overfalls! But today was perfect, hugging the coast took us out of the main stream and we were soon rounding the Broch of Gurness and into sheltered waters. here the support vessel left for home as the sun went down. We donned head torches and paddled for the bright lights of Kirkwall.

Such a peaceful end to our journey. Night paddling in silence, heading towards lights reflecting on glassy waters made me realise why I love Kayaking and all its diversities.

All in all a great journey. Although probably one I wont be doing again in one go.. Plans are already afoot to paddle it in 2010 breaking it up into sections so to explore the caves and stacks and doing a bit of camping on the way

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The last week.

Its been a busy old week with Canoe Polo training last Friday.. We have a lot of interest in the game which is brilliant, we might even be able to enter an Orkney B team into next years div 3 if this keeps up! We now have folk willing to train against us and they are all improving on a weekly basis.!
Peter on 'river mode'

On Saturday morning Myself, peter Woodward, Ansgar and Mary(The later two are from the 'Far side', Orkney Sea Kayaking Assoiciation, Orkneys other canoe club) on the pentelina accross the pentland firth.

We motored straight down to the get in for river Findhorn where there was 8 inch of snow at the bell tower. this meant carrying boats for 500 meter doon hill. I didnt think it was a day fo a dip but obviously the 'Farsiders' did and I had to chase one half of them down some of the rapids!

As we got of the snow started and dark came down. we hastened back to our youth hostel in aviemore and quickly got fed and watered with some Curry and Guinness!

Next Morning we fired down the A9 and jumped on the Stanley section of the Tay. mary was feeling a little warm so went for a wee' boatless drift down the river for a short while..! we bounced merrily down the rest of the stretch quickly with our napier freinds Ric and Shorty.

We had no time to spare as me and Peter were meeting the rest of the orkney polo team in glenrothes. Peter, Torquil, Graham, Me and Colin

This started really well ,beating the team on top of the league and Stirling Uni. unfortunatly we lost our way and lost the next game with a sending off and both teams conceeding a penalty. hard faught but not good enough. next game was FifeCAG who have played togethr for years and grown in size and strength although still only teenagers. They played extremley defensive game scoring all there goals on the break. turning out eventuall winners.

More practice needed. this is the first time that the team has played together since Scottish championships last May so all in all not a disgracefull performance.

Back in Orkney and normal pool training continued on tuesday evening. This was CRAZIEST attendance ever! 40 people were counted. pretty much half Junior half adults.. breaking it up into 15 each in boats I hope that they all feel they got something out of the session. Malcom scott did his first handroll after 30 seconds tuition! We also got some more juniors on the padle power scheme..

reminder to self.. tak more photos!

padddling so far...briefly..

Me and KKC!

hello there cheers for looking at my blog.. i am a blog virgin so bare with me!!
I live up in orkney just now and have been paddling off and on since I was 13..

Kirkwall kayak club introduced me to sea kayaking around orkney, teaching me the basics in the nice warm climate of the swimming pool. Pretty sure it was my brother that got me into it, he certainly got me rolling with and without a paddle

Me brother Leon With LeaAnne and Jodie,
he always was a layed back paddler!

Some of the dafter members of the early 1990's (including brother Leon, johnny Johnston and noel Thomson) would chuck us 'kids' in an old perception dancer and send us out in the cold surf with nothing much more than an old rain coat on! How the hell I didn't jack it in right then I don't ken!! This was a contrast to the sheltered paddles in Scapa Flow and Inganess
Me peedie boat the 'Pickie-Terno'

My teens came and went in the same fashion... I feel i really started to paddle when I moved to Edinburgh and pretended to be a student ( I was working as a Bricklayer which is how make my bread!) joining Napier kayak Club on river trips to the Scottish Highlands. Quickly getting thrown down rivers like the Etive, Roy and The Spean
Me paddling 'the Crack of Doom' on the River etive

Orkney Polo team 2001

before I went to Edinburgh I had a brief fling with Canoe Polo when Orkney entered a team into the Scottish Open Championships. We won the bowl!!

After a few years of Edinburgh we did a bit of traveling and ended up back in Orkney. I think only now do I fully appreciate these islands. i rejoined Kirkwall kayak club and started myself on the coaching ladder. I had been coaching and leading for a number of years so this seemed to be the natural thing to do.

Last year I became chaiman of KKC and now thoroughly enjoy the organising and arranging of trips, coaching the adults and kids. We have members between 10-65 years old and I love watching them progress thier skills and confidence on the water.

We also have regular sea trip in the summer, a polo team in Scottish Division 2, river trips and the occasional surf trip.

That is about as brief as I can make my paddling story.. I will try and be disciplined enough to update regularly...