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 .      (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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