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 .      (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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Ria D’Etel … Spring Tides !

The Ria d’Etel has been mentioned several times in this blog …. just three weeks ago we paddled from the source to Pont Lorois and back, this week it was a ‘good’ spring tide.

This time we took the playboats to Pont Lorois, these tidal rapids are a great playspot. Whilst a river changes with increases or decreases with volume, they rarely change as quickly as tidal rapids,  as food for thought …. in the following photos imagine the current flowing in the opposite direction ?

In fact it does on these tidal rapids  ! … and rivers do not do that !

The next photo is the same spot viewed from the opposite side, the tidal height is a little lower

Behind the big ‘Rounded’ rock is another playspot …. the video is ‘under construction’  and will be posted soon

This tide was particularly high and the results here were quite different to usual,  very ‘grippy’ stoppers and huge volumes of water …   Jersey kayaks explains  here

Another great day on the water


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A few minutes video of my first Kayak Paddle Sail

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Paddling with the Sail again

Well worth mentioning is the article written by Rob Mercer in Australia covering Kayak Sailing Safety, it’s an excellent text which has given me plenty of food for thought.

Another day with a depression just off the West coast of Brittany, with consequent high winds forecast. However a window of some gentler Bf 3 to 4 winds in the morning were predicted, later to rise to Bf5 by late afternoon.

I was itching to get back on the water and get using the sail again.It was bright with bursts of sunshine and the sky gave no indication of what was to come, I was soon on the water with the Sail up

The wind was filling the sail nicely and I was much more relaxed, and starting to understand how the sail was working.

After carrying out a little research on the internet I discovered some terms for Sailing with reference to wind direction.  So how was I doing ?  Firstly I’ll explain that my kayak has both a Rudder and Skeg !   ( It was an ex Demo boat and was fitted with both to allows demos with either )

With the rudder up Sailing Close Reach was fast but I noticed a lot of sideways drift (Leeway) When I dropped the Rudder I founbd by turning into the wind I could counteract the Leeway, as I turned closer to wind the Sail would not fill so well and I needed to pull the mainsheet in tighter. I was then able to sail somewhere between Close Reach and Close Hauled, there was a loss of speed from 7Kmh down to 5Kmh.

Allowing the boat to turn away from wind, and letting the mainsheet out to fill the sail gave me a sharp increase of speed, not so noticable when looking out at the horizon, but when looking at the coast zooming past, it was quite amazing.

I have today understood the term to Gybe, that is turning the boat downwind causing the sail and boom to cross the boat and fill on the other side. The first time it ‘happened’ it was quite unexpected and unsettling, the sail crossed the deck rapidly and filled quickly with a snap, needing a good support stroke on that side !

I soon learnt that tightning the mainsheet and bringing the sail in closer reduced the shocks effect of the Gybe.

It was another fun day,  wind speeds at the start were 12Km per hour rising up to 23 Km hour at the end. When the ‘White horses’ appear, I know it’s time to land.



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First trip on the water with the Flat Earth Sail

My first choice to test out the new Flat Earth rig was my local beach at Villes Martin,  Magic Seaweed was predicting Bf4 along this stretch of coast all morning, I was a bit concerned that this may be a little high for a first outing…. I’ve never sailed before !

However at 9am after a 5 minute walk I was at the head of the beach with my Anenometer it recorded Zero !   I decided to go further west to Pornichet which is more open to a Westerly, sure enough as I approached the Sea Front flags were fluttering nicely I measured a 7 knot steady wind

The sun was shining, a bright 18°C  I parked the sail for launching and was soon paddling forward into the wind.

Having put some distance between myself and the shore, before I even thought about sailing I practiced raising and lowering the sail, all was fine everything running smothly.

I headed straight into the wind then pulled the mainsheet to allow the sail to fill. Then I noticed in my haste during the setup, I had assembled the boom joint upsidedown leaving the sail twisted, so back to the beach to correct it.

Again once on the water I headed off into the wind and raised the sail, pulled the mainsheet bringing the boom in closer and the sail filled nicely turning me to Port and I was Sailing !

Over the course of the next hour my confidence increased, along with the wind strength !  I was sailing along anywhere between 3knots and 6knots, it truly was great fun and I learned how to turn into the wind and with the wind behind.  I alm looking forward to my next trip


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Nantes to Saint-Nazaire on the River Loire, 60 km of Art, History and Nature

I have paddle the Loire Estuary below the bridge at Saint-Nazaire on many occasions, but have never ventured further up river. It’s time we took a look.

We arrived at Nantes just before dawn, the lights reflecting on the water looking great

We had time for a cup of tea as the sun rose, it was a spectacular display of colours

With the boats lightly loaded for a day trip we were ready to go. We were quite fortunate to have arrived at the slip at the same time as a couple of members from a Society called ‘Loire Pour Tous’  … the Loire for everyone.

They very kindly gave us permission to leave our van outside their clubhouse saving us the stress of looking for parking.  These guys are involved in the restoration, and new building of the traditional timber barges used on the Loire over the last Century

As the Sun rose in the Sky, we saw an Otter swimming upstream, I am always grateful to see these natural displays.

Behind the Lock at the entrance to the Riviere Erde, we could see the Cathedral

We passed the enormous Naval museum Maillé Brézé    a post WWII French Destroyer, there is an interesting account on the associations website  at

We passed under the Pont de Cheviré which carries the périphérique circular  autoroute around Nantes, the graceful curves are much more impressive when viewed from below.

By mid morning the temperature was reaching 18°C  and once again I find myself paddling in a T Shirt, Sea temperatures are published as 16°C around the Saint-Nazaire estuary,  but the river was probably a degree or two colder.

The dockside cranes are massive and numerous, they hint at the past when Nantes was a busy Port receiving goods from all over the World for onward transmission via the Rivers canal and the road network.

Then we came across this house ……  it is in fact a piece of work from the Artist Jean-Luc Courcoult    “La Maison dans la Loire” although it is a ‘decorated concrete fabrication’        5 years on it still looks remarkable ‘real’  The Artist is popularly known as the original founder of the ‘Royal de Luxe’ Theatre company who build giant puppets and perform all over the World

A little further on, at the Lock to the Canal by Le Pellerin, we came across another piece of Art from the artist Erwin Wurm titled  “Misconceivable”

The river was now becoming wider, and we also saw the sky getting darker, we knew there wind would be increasing and bringing a heavy front of rain, we still had another 16 km to do.

We reached Montoir de Bretagne about 5 km from our destination when the front arrived, the sky turned a dramatic grey, the herring gulls took off noisily and the Bridge at Saint-Nazaire disappeared from view.  Exactly on schedule at 4pm the winds increased to force 5 and we chose to land a km earlier, on the small beach just next to the Port, after clocking up 60.5 kms michelle’s longest day trip todate.

This was an excellent trip, there is so much to see, but at 60 kms, it is a committing journey to undertake on one tidal cycle using the slack water at each side of the cycle, we were on the water for 7 1/2 hours .  We also made the trip on a very low neap tide, a high Spring tide would have knocked the kms off quicker.

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Installing a keel strip….. and stainless steel cables

This post is not an instructional post …  but is here to give me a record which I can refer back to when I find I need to do the job again.

So, by way of introduction I have previously glassed on a keel strip but this was over a year ago.   I was very content with the results and I believe the materials cost about 50% less than having the work done on a paying basis.

I previously, and this time used the instructions I found online at

I used 200 grams of resin to lay the tape on, and finished the keel strip with 300 grams of pigmented ‘Flowcoat’   I used a 2% mix of Catalyst working outside on a bright clear day at 18° C.

I took the skeg out, and the cable I replaced some 3 months ago was in perfect condition. My boat had a Valley cable skeg with a stainless steel flat tape cable. It required continual maintenance,  the manufacturers even had a video demo on their website. The problem was rusting.

I discovered a supplier in the UK several years ago who’s cable has been good in my P&H boat for over 5 years. Here’s their Website

I ordered:
3mm 1×19 A4-AISI 316 Stainless Steel Cable MBL 720 kgs
Catalogue Code 602.000.030

As well
as the 3mm cable for the skeg, I also ordered this 4mm PVC covered Stainless Cable with the fittings to enable me to rig up a good Security cable for locking the boats up. I made up a 6 meter length which gives plenty of scope for securing multiple boats. It is a great deterrent with its highly visible red coating.


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