Renew, Refresh, and refurb……

It’s been a long drawn out return to the norm following the burglary at the end of last year. I have learnt much about the law in France … and in fact see that it suffers from similar complaints that are made about English law.

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So I’ll close the ‘burglary thing’ by saying  that the Burglary was effected by the son of people known to me with two of his despots as accomplices, I attended the court hearing last week  and saw they were sentenced to two years imprisonment with one of the years suspended for two years, the end result for me after the insurance claim being some 4000€ loss,   surprisingly I did recover my photo gear after it was offered for sale in a seccond hand shop, but couldn’t take possession from the Gendarmes until after the Court hearing.

Of course we have all seen that the weather has been, well pretty dank …

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so instead of being in the water we have used the time to do some updating, a new kitchen in the appartment taking a wall down and increasing the kitchen size to 26sq. M

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and at the house the work continues with a complete new solid Oak door and frame, the original door while looking strong was not in fact very difficult to ‘break in’

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It now sports a wrought iron gate that can be locked during periods of absence.

Alongside the building work I have also installed a CCTV system at the house, the system can be monitored via the internet and also records to a hard drive, it ‘s great for ‘peace of mind’

 

The van too has received some attention, finally after prototyping a wooden bed system, I have at last got round to welding up a metal frame. It is simple and converts from a bench seat to double bed in just 15 seconds.

20130416_112258Some shelves have been added to increase the storage at the back of the van

So stacks of things going on … but not all kayaking.  The next post will feature some salty water at La Trinite

 

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The Medway Estuary

Having lived in the South East for a good few years I am no stranger to the Medway Estuary. Now that I have moved well away I find I always enjoy a return to this amazing area. At first sight it looks an industrial mess with everything covered in mud. Only when you get close up though that you, you suddenly find yourselves in a rather beautiful place.The large areas of mud and salt marsh provide a home to a great variety of birds. One of the major land masses here is Chetny Marsh which is now recognized a a major and important habitat for birds.

MimionDeadmans

Launching from the public slipway at Queenborough, we paddled against the rising tide the short distance to Deadmans island which sits at the northern end of Chetny Marsh. Recently it’s history has revealed itself with erosion exposing the coffins and skeletons of the Naval prisoners who died from disease whilst incarcerated in the old prison hulks moored in the Estuary.What appears to be shingle in the photo, is in fact tons of cockle shells that have been dumped here. It makes for an easy and clean landing.

deadmansWe continued our journey on to Burntwick Island, this was our destination where we would take a bit of lunch as the tide dropped before doing a little ‘treasure hunting’ Army hutThe whole region has been used by the Military for many decades, now there are many buildings long abandoned by the army slowly sinking into the marshes. On spring tides it is possible to paddle in through the windows.

Rusty tankThe ‘treasure’ that we came here to look for is all the old rubbish from the last century!

finding treasure

On a previous visit to the Thames, up by Tower bridge while have a food break we discovered many old Clay Pipes, apparantly these were purchased ready filled with tobacco “ready to smoke” and of course after smoking, they were later discarded into the river by the dock workers.

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It is unusual to find the pipes complete, but the beach is quite literally littered with broken pieces.

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It was not long before we had assembled a collection of ‘Old things’  … which would “Probably” look nice when they’ve had a good wash

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The haul include a few cast bottle stoppers alongside a clay pipe bowl as well as a couple of old bottles that had suffered melting in a fire at some time which had left them all twisted.

Chimney

At the Northern end of Burntwick Island are the remains of some building complex, just a few foundation stumps and an old Chimney, rather than sunken it seems more likely that previous sea defenses have been breached alongside rising water levels.

Flood Marsh

Making our way back to Queenborough, we took advantage of the high water level to choose a more direct route back, it was quite strange paddling over the flooded salt marshes with only the longest grasses breaking through to the surface

Mimi marshesAs the Ebb speeded up , we moved back into the main channels, to get dried out on the mud here would have been messy

Mimi Sunset

It was that ‘Golden hour’ once more and we were rewarded with some glorious last rays  as the Sun set.

We reached Queenborough slip at dusk and enjoyed a good Pint in the “Old House At Home” Pub which we had to pass to get to the Van.

There are showers and toilets opposite the Pub who are keyholders. We mret a couple of characters in the Pub, and discovered just how small a world it is.

Old_House_at_Home,_Queenborough_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1586891Once more a great paddle

 

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The Thames

The original plan of a new years eve paddle was abandoned, mainly due to the weather but it was difficult matching known good parking and launching places with the tide. River Thames Kayak

Instead we launched new years day from the Rowing club at Gravesend and paddled up with the Flood, no real destination planned, but would turn round at high tide and return to Gravesend on the ebb.  The pontoon at the rowing club allows easy launching except at the very lowest tides. Parking is available a short walk away in the old swimming pool car park reasonably cheaply River Thames Kayak

SwansOn the adjacent beach were a flock of Swans who immediately came over to see us (no doubt expecting food !)

PLA PierAfter launching, we started our trip upriver, just after the Rowing club are the buildings and Jetty of the Port of London Authority.  The Gravesend RNLI boat is also berthed here.

Royal Terrace PierThe Royal Terrace pier was originally built for the great steamships of the past, but now is used exclusively by the PLA

Town PierIt is only a short distance further that you will come across Gravesend Town Pier, this the oldest cast iron pier in the world. It was built in 1834 when Gravesend was a popular resort for Londoners; it’s recently been fully restored and is now a restaurant and bar – though still with public access for those who want neither food nor drink

Continuing up the Thames, you soon arrive at Northfleet, here behind the industrial inner city views lies a curious history. For those interested heres a link to a Wikipeadia article

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northfleet

There is an old harbour at Northfleet which has now received attention as a project for redevelopment.

Our Journey took us on up past Greenhithe, visibility was deteriorating  and alongside Ingress park we stop for a snack Christmas cake and hot blackcurrant.  It was approaching high tide  and with visibility down to 200 meters it was a good time to turn back.

As darkness fell over the river we switched on our lights, nothing fancy or complicated just an LED ‘head torch’ attached to the PFD.
Kayak lightsNot a particularly good photo, but it does show rather well how visible you are with a light.

In fact the river had been rather busy all afternoon, I had been monitoring the Port VTS on chanel 69;  A large Tug boat past us in the main channel  and called us in to VTS  advising them of two kayakers on the water adjacent to Northfleet creek. They mentioned we were OK and ‘had lights on ‘   I called VTS and gave them our destination and ETA, who then requested an ‘Arrival’ comfirmation when we had landed.

On this occasion I had not given a paddle plan, (in fact we really did not have one ! ) however where the estuary widens and I will be crossing the shipping lines then I will normally call VTS for a sit rep with the traffic. In fact in all my dealings with London VTS they have been absolutely helpful and communications pleasant.

P1010680It was fully dark when we reached Gravesend, The duty officer from the Port of London greeted us from their Pier, he told us he had heard us on the VHF and decided to ‘check us in ‘  It was a ‘nice gesture’ and this interest in our safety is  always appreciated.

As I logged off with VTS we saw the Swans from our launch had all settled on the Rowing club Pontoon, (sorry the picture is pretty useless ) we decided to let sleeping swans lie …  fortunately the tide was still high enough to allow us to use the beach.

A very enjoyable trip on the river at the start of the new year

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Last paddle of the season (…in France )

This is always a time of reflection for me as the year draws to a close, again I have been very lucky and had the opportunity to paddle on some fantastic coastlines and enjoyed some great trips. This year has seen me install the flat earth sail, it has been great fun learning how to use it.
There was a point when first considering a sail when I believed that without any knowledge of sailing, that I would find it too dificult to ‘learn the ropes’ Happily that was not the case at all, in this clip is a very quick snapshot of kayak sailing in a good Beaufort force 5 with gusts up to 6, the swell was over 1.5 meters occaisionally breaking, certainly at the upper limits of my practicability, but there is no doubt you can see it is possible to make progress.

 

We’ll be across in the UK before the new year, and just may be able to squeeze in one more paddle

We have some good trips in mind for next year, in particular a revisit to Norway, but with plenty of trips along the Breton coast

All that remains is to wish you all a good finish to the year

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Windy weather .. another bash with the Sail

We have seen many long standing and slow moving depressions sitting over the atlantic. This weekend again greeted us with high winds just about round the entire coast of Brittany, magic seaweed showing  Bf 5 to 6

Screen Shot 2012-12-18 at 3.23.42 PMIt presented another opportunity to get the sail out.

I launched from le Pouliguen  at the Western end of the Bai de La Baule knowing that close to the shore would be sheltered from the worst of the Westerly winds.

In all I was on the water for just an hour and a half.  It was the first time in any real swell and turned out to be great fun as well as a little tiring …

It was so easy having the wind take all the effort out of paddling out and over the incoming waves, further out the wind flattened out the swell leaving me to play around with the wind and sail, this is about my fith session now and it is still quite a novelty to have on my deck.
Every so often a wave would appear behind me and give me an incredibly long surf, it really is good fun.

At one point I found myself in the company of a couple of windsurfers, I was able to tack at very similar angles but their huge sail was much faster.
Now looking forward to the next session

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The Nantes to Brest Canal A nicely sheltered paddle

The entire coast of Brittany was hit with high winds up to Bf 7 over the whole weekend. There were some moments of calm but not really allowing a good day trip. So we looked inland, our first choice were the canals on the Briere marshes, but we soon discovered that this National park restricts kayaking on most of the waterways. We then took a look at the Nantes to Brest Canal, we chose the port at Guenrouet to launch from.

It was well sheltered by the forest, very quiet and hardly a ripple on the surface. After leaving the shelter of the forest we enjoyed wonderful views across the country, completely unspoilt

At ground level we could barely feel the wind, but the clouds were flying overhead, a good indicator of what would be happening on the coast

We came across these floating traps baited with carrots, they are an attempt to control the Ragondin (Coypu)  which has become a huge pest here on the continent

They used to be ‘farmed’ in Norfolk for their fur, and quickly became a pest after escaping into the wild, and a long sustained program  was needed to eradicate them. They damage crops and cause enormous erosion damage to the river banks where they burrow relentlessly

One sure way of keeping the numbers down is to put it on the menu,  it appears that Paté de Ragondin au cognac is just the job to keep the hunters bringing them in.

We stopped at a small harbour at Le Morissais, with its small jetty and slip. We took our lunch on the picnic tables enjoying the sunshine, it was just 15° C

Back on the water we continued to explore this lovely waterway, the reflections on the water made it quite beautiful.

This trip was very different to our usual paddles, we both enjoyed this very tranquil day, and as well as the ragondins saw a few striking blue Kingfishers.

So when the wind is just battering the coast a little too hard we have another 300 Kms of this canal to visit.

 

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Sea Kayaking, Redsands Towers revisited under sail

Sea Kayaking,  Redsands Towers revisited under sail

I am once again in England and with a small errand to complete at Canterbury, I took the opportunity to paddle out from Herne Bay to Redsands. I have completed this paddle a few times, but the new interest for me was to make the trip using the sail.

Winds were forecast at Bf3 6am increasing to Bf4 for the rest of the day. Having been watching the trend over the previous days the weather did show improvement.On the Esplanade opposite the Old Pier there was hardly a breath of wind, I even wondered if it was worth rigging the sail.

But once a little way off shore there was just enough wind to fill the sail, so with some assistance from the wind I set off for Redsands

About four miles out  had the large windfarm development on my starboard. The area is patrolled by a Guard Vessel,  I was paddle sailing at around 5 knots and this clearly interested the skipper who after circling me, followed me for some twenty minutes until I left the area. The wind was now at a comfortable Bf4 and giving me a good bit of lift

By the time I reached the Towers the wind had now reached the top end of Bf4 and when I turned to make the return trip I found the wind had backed just enough to prevent me sailing back. I did try tacking but found this was quite laborious and that it was far more efficient to just paddle into the wind. I Stowed the sail away on the deck and set off.

Approximately halfway back there was a significant increase in the Wind, it was a good Bf5 and constant, and my course took me straight into it, it was going to be a meaningful paddle ! In fact the wind did not abate until I was stood on the beach. I took a look at MSW after the trip and from 3pm the Bf3-4  was showing as Bf5.  I had last checked at 8am

Looking at my GPS trace you can see a nice gentle curve on the trip, paddle sailing out. On the paddle back the sudden increase to Bf5 is quite apparent looking at the trace.

I found this a useful exercise in understanding the use of the sail, I had rather hoped to make the return trip under sail too, but then it’s always good to have a bit of flexibility in the plan. It was a good paddle….. and on my birthday too.

Sea Kayaking,  Redsands Towers revisited under sail

 

 

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Villes Martin to La Banche Lighthouse

Tide Coefficient 82 Low Tide St Nazaire 11.00am Destination: La Banche Lighthouse

With winds up to Bf 7 in the days running up to the weekend, it was good to see a ridge of high pressure move into the bay of Biscay, Sunday promised a blue Sky, light winds and calm seas.

The tide times meant we needed something very local, an early start was needed. We put together a plan to visit La Banche, about 10 Nm from Villes Martin

The boats were on the beach at dawn, and we enjoyed a stunning sunrise.

The Previmer swell forecast showed up to .5 meter swell, and was accurate for most of the trip.  As we approached La Banche the sea became shallower and the waves became a little larger but no significant difference to the forecast.

The early morning light on the water was quite magical, everything is tinted with gold. Our route meant we had the tide running with us, but even with our early start we only had the last couple of hours of the ebb.  We set off with a good pace making 7 knots during our first hour even with a low coefficient of 82  (MHWS = 90 )

We paddled on a bearing direct to La Banche, and with lots more time on our return with the flood planned to return via the ‘Grande Charpentier’ lighthouse.We reached La Banche just before the Flood commenced, time for some biscuits and hot blackcurrent.

The current tower was built in 1862 and took three years to complete, and replaced a smaller earlier tower. The foundations of the first tower still remain and can be seen at low tide

We set off on our return trip on a bearing for the Pointe de chemoulin, this course will take us directly to the next lighthouse ‘Le grand charpentier’

As the day progressed, the sea became flatter and the sun quite brilliant, it was hard to believe it was the end of october. Previmer reported a water temperature of 15°C

Both ‘La Banche’ and the ‘Grand Charpentier’ mark the dangerous shoals that lay in the Loire estuary.

After leaving the ‘Grand Charpentier’ we had just a couple of miles left to our journey, another great paddle taking advantage of some end of year sunshine

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Deck reinforcement for the sail

When I described installing the sail, I was rather optimistic with my assessment of the strength and suitability of the front deck of the Tahe Wind 585. I was completely preoccupied with the ‘downward’ forces acting on the mast base, in fact the Tahe deck manages these down forces well.

Having read Rob Mercers Kayak Sailing safety guide, it was when I had a session on the water trying some some self rescue techniques that I discovered some very different forces were acting on the deck.

If you look at the two shots above you can see the mast foot is subject to a ‘Turning’ force. This force compresses and ‘caves in’ the deck allowing the side stays to fall slack with this change in geometry. Not a good situation at all, especially in these dead calm conditions, add in wind and waves and the likely result would be some serious damage to the Deck.

The problem is with the relatively thin deck between the center Apex moulding and the Side gunwhale. Many years ago when preparing to take glass slalom boats to Austria we reinforced the front lightweight decks using thin timber lathes, it was simple and worked. I decided to use this method for the Tahe

The red lines show the area that I need to reinforce, it’s set back about 30cm from the front hatch opening, it was not going to be straightforward, I could get my head in the hatch… but not with an arm.  So it was simply a matter of taking a look then working blind with a quick check every so often make sure all was in order.

I was pleased with the end result, I laid the 3mm Lathes on top of two layers of a heavy chopped strand mat, then a further layer of mat over the lathes. To keep everything smooth over the work I mixed up a little ‘Flowcoat’ and gave everything a coating.

(I removed the Saddles for the stays, and when refitting through the additional reinforcement had to cut new bolts to length)

Without doubt the deck is more rigid, Ive decided to install an electric pump tomorrow  before getting out and testing the reinforcement.

 

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Playspots on the Etel

Here’s a  google earth view of the area showing the two Islets creating the white water on the Flood tide.

Below these two Islets is another rocky clump which creates a powerful wave on the Ebb.  The current flows around 7 knots here and on the big springs you will see large boils rise in the water then dropping into whirlpools, really chaotic water.

In the video clip are three different playspots. The video was shot around 15.30 hrs, Low tide on the Etel was at 12.10 hrs. At the time of he video, the volume of water and the tide height had increased to the point where the water starts to flatten out, better shaped waves are a little earlier, although the speed and power of the water increase.  The tidal coefficient was a high spring at 104, and on this occasion the water was higher than expected because of the low pressure.

A coefficient of 88 and above ( a MHWS tide = Coefficient 90 )  will give white water to play on, around 2 hours after Low water, and it starts dropping of 2 hours later as is approaches high tide

These two aerial shots show the Islets from two sources, that on the left is google earth and shows the plumes of water on a rising tide.

The shot on the right is from the French yellow pages (Pages Jaunes)  and shows the playspots dry at low tide .    http://goo.gl/TAlOv      (This link takes you to BELTZ a small town just east of the Etel.  click on Vue on the map for an aerial photo and scroll across)

The quality of the imagery published by Pages Jaunes is far superior to that on Google earth or maps, I use it all the time when trip planning.

 

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