Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Location:
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Monday, October 20, 2014

Waiting for a train

Because of time and schedule constraints I could not drive to Cornwall and instead had to fly in via Bristol. It had already been a tight schedule but at least I made it to Bristol Temple Meads train station on time. Only to find my train to be delayed by 26 minutes. The platform by then crowded with people for a next (last) train in that direction. Like herrings in a can... At Truro the delay had run-up to 45 minutes, making me miss my last train on the Falmouth branch line to Penmere. Fair to say that Great Western Railways kindly provided for a taxi-bus to drop the stranded passengers off along the line's stations. But Jeff Allen picked me up from Truro and at midnight I could call it a day.

On my return trip a week later (today) I opted for the connection that needed no other transfers and a reserved table seat. So at 09:26 I am waiting at the (non-staffed) Penmere Platform for a train... that is canceled... Fortunately I could sit at (unreserved) table seats on both connecting trains and I am now 30 minutes away from Bristol Temple Meads. Then only a bus ride away from the airport.

The British and the Dutch rail system appear to have more than one thing in common. Privatized and delays. And maybe they also use the same statistics for measuring service, in that a canceled train does not count as delayed. Also it seems there are a lot of jobs with British Rail. All those gated stations and platforms with service personnel at those stations, gates and platforms to help people with valid tickets and non-opening gates. And many conductors on the trains, at least on the ones that run, calling out for tickets of newly boarded passengers only.

The British rail users remain kind and polite under all of this and show patience in queus. The train conductor on the Penmere branch line gracefully accepting my written-down reservation number, despite regulations, for I only could collect my on-line booked ticket at a Truro ticket machine.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Last days of Summer

Last week I was at Sea Kayaking Cornwall's annual Sea Kayak Symposium course week. Unfortunately I could not attend the symposium weekend itself. Monday onwards I ran the BCU 4* training over 4 days + 1 day for the Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning module. Monday it was raining so a good day to get the CN&TP done. The forecast for the rest of the week was 'horrible'. Strong and gale force winds and more notably: long wave period swell out of a deep low from the west. Cornwall is famous for it's surf on many of it's beaches, but where to go with up to 2.9 meter significant wave height with 13-17 second wave periods for a 4*?
My group was very focused. At our 9 AM meetings they had already discussed among them the paddling possibilities with the forecast for the day. Strong south-easterly winds. North coast today. Rock hopping and skill training out of Portreath. A beautiful sunny summer-like day. The last day of Summer?
Wednesday we went to Carbis Bay. The long period swells to arrive around noon. Heading out to the east side of St. Ives bay, the surf gradually increased in height and frequency of waves. Extremely clean long running waves in sets, unknown in the Netherlands where I come from. I had my longest surf EVER. The only drawback with this kind of surf (and long runs) is that everybody is scattered all over the place and counting is quite impossible not being able to see over the top of the swell. Time to get out and for lunch on this (surely) last day of Summer.
Thursday the (strong) wind was southwest enough to use Falmouth Bay and check-out close-by Swanpool first. The long swell did not wrap around to Swanpool, so a great 4* environment to use for leadership and incidents. The first three scenario's I did not even have to stage. Reality was better than the best scenario I could plan. Leaving a (dumpy) surf beach uncontrolled inevitably creates mayhem with a backwashed paddler hitting the ready-to-launch kayaks side-on. The first rocky outcrop had a paddler out of the kayak onto the rocks. A throw-tow rescue. A third participant by now thought this was a 'free-for-all' incident hour and decided to capsize waiting to be rescued. Did I mention that in-view Falmouth coastguard wanted to be notified when we would start our rescue exercises? I did not even have time to prepare them... The sun only visible through a gray sky. Brown leaves floating in the sea. Autumn has arrived.
Grey skies of
Friday we went to Swanpool again. Now with a south-southwesterly force 5 Beaufort wind we could check the 'outer limits' of the Swanpool area and the remit boundaries of the 4* environment. Rain was fore-casted for the Friday afternoon, but we were off the water before that.
Do check out Sea Kayaking Cornwall for their activities and their annual sea kayaking Symposium in October. Cornwall has a spectacular coastline, also famous for it's surf. The water temperatures (in October) are still very warm, so wet activities are not uncomfortable. A good place to spend any time of a long Cornish Summer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Feisty

My last day in Anglesey on this visit and my first day in my brand new Explorer. Justine and I had a morning paddle out of Porth Dafarch into a lumpy sea.
Penrhyn Mawr was intimidating rough. For me it is the biggest I have ever seen from my kayak or it has been a long time since I have seen it this plucky. Swell running into the race at an angle against the current. Feisty was the word that Justine used. Justine went into the thick of it to catch some waves. I was happy to paddle at the rough enough edges and not surf. My built-in 'safety valves' on the setting: a bit too intimidated to play. Someday I will find the 'override switch'...
We continued towards and around South Stack and towards Parliaments House Cave. Justine got hit by a nice zipper-wave reflected off South Stack. Very chunky water. Returning under South Stack bridge against the full flood was a work-out. With some luck I got two surges that helped a lot. Justine had to try a different channel. We could already mentally prepare for what was waiting at Penrhyn Mawr's Chicken Run.
Many years ago I 'blew myself up' at the Chicken Run only to see Dale make it through seemingly effortless. I than had to pull my kayak over the islet to the other side... The 'secret' was reading the water in combination with brute force. Today helped extra by the completely smooth unscratched hull of my new kayak. So it was spared dragging and scratching.