Videos … so far

I am trying to upload all my videos, past and present, that I have made about kayaking and sailing. There is quite a lot of them, but in case people want to see them I feel it is a waist to leave them on a hard-drive and let them unseen.
So here is a collection of videos so far that I have uploaded and you can have a browse if and when you feel like it:


Rainy Day on the Solway

Sea kayaking in the rain might not be thrilling to watch most of the time, but it can be a relaxing and interesting experience. The rain bouncing off the water, the rain on ones face, dripping in the eyes, also it can wash the salt off ones clothes. The wind can create interesting wave patterns and sea states.

Such was the scene kayaking near to the harbour wall at Port Carlisle.

Kayak (Day 1)

Monday 19.09.16

When woke up on Monday morning there was no wind, I knew there would be a little more by the coast but not enough to sail. I was facing another week of failed sailing plans, a quick decision was needed. I hurriedly checked the inflatable kayak to see if all was there, retrieved my 3-way split paddle from under the stairs and I packed it all on my bike trolley. I had a little food already in my bike pannier… I was off.

It took me about 2 hours to cycle to the coast, but the weather was fine and there was no head wind! And when I got to the boat the tide was still an hour away.
I got my wet suit (I always “dress for the sea” i.e. in it) and sorted out what I needed for the kayaking and took my things to the shore. The tide came in fast (as it was a high tide of 8 meters; when it is so high it races over the sands like a river in flood with a force to match).

The inflation of the kayak took longer than what I expected, due to me being “unfit”, huffing and puffing using the hand-pump; I was dripping with sweat by the end of it. I added the 2 skegs to the hull (it is supplied with 1 skeg when new, but I added another skeg fin to the front-end for added directional stability).

The beauty about the inflatable is that it is light weight and I could easily pick it up and carry it to the water’s edge, which had now reach the bank. As I walked to the bank’s edge I slipped on the sodden ground, down I went into the sea and I grazed some skin off my thumb in the process (making it painful when mixed with salty water). By the time I had packed my things into the rear cockpit the tide was deep and I had to “fall” into the kayak, not very gracefully!! When strapped in and secure, I was off.

It had been about 2 years since I had used the kayak, and I had forgotten a lot of things!! With each stroke I was “missing the water” (slicing through the water with the flat of the blade). I had the split paddle connected for a right handed paddler (as I am left handed I had to re-arrange the blade direction) once I got that sorted I had forward motion! Also the inflatable is “tippy” and I had to relearn my balance. But it comes back very quickly. I headed for the boat, and “Sadaf” looked different from the water, than the shore. A few times around the boat taking photos as I went, then off to follow the current/s out into the main channel.

I paddled with the tide towards Carlisle, there was no wind at all, and the sea was flat calm. About 15 minutes I saw a ‘black line’ floating on the water in the distance, a stick perhaps? I went to see what it was. Then it sank with a curved back… it was a porpoise.

It re-emerged a few moments later and I could hear its “snort” as it blew from its air-hole. The sea was calm; the surroundings quiet only this little creature was making a noise. Again it dived. I took several more photos but I was never fast enough to catch it as I saw it. My camera is a simple “point and shoot” and by the time it was ready the little creature had disappeared.

Then came a moment that I will remember, the blowing came from behind me, I turned and saw the porpoise coming straight for me, it dived once, twice and on the 3rd time it went underneath my kayak. While it was happening I was thinking about the film “Jaws” (how that film is in my teenage memory) but this was beautiful, and moments like that only happen once in a blue-moon. It came straight for me, curious perhaps? I do not know. I managed to take a short video of it diving for the last time, but it did not capture the moment as I saw it.

I waited around a little longer, but it did not surface again. I noticed I had drifted backwards with the current (towards the boat) so I retraced my paddle strokes and enjoyed the memory of the porpoise, and the stillness of the water. The light gave the water a silvery sheen, like I was floating on liquid silver.

I had ‘touched bottom’ while coming up-channel but I knew it was not the actual sea-bed as the tide was still deep. I paddled against the tide for about an hour and reached a creek just below the village of Drumbrugh. Only at high tide can one paddle up these creeks. They cut the land in two, and a few people have been caught out and had to be rescued, as they have not noticed the tide coming behind them via these creeks. I paddled up this one and then videoed my return journey.

I stopped to have a rest and take a few photos, when a man came to have a chat. He was a kayaker too and he was going to kayak but had left it too late. We swapped stories of the Solway and paddling in this area. There are so few of us on this estuary that it is always encouraging to meet a like minded person.

I continued on my way, paddling with the tide this time, gently going with the flow, enjoying the lack of wind making the sea calm, but still feeling its force.

There is a ‘point’ that is like a corner that the current hits and rebounds against; I floated passed it and floated down to the bay. If there had been strong winds this point would have been white-water.

The “bay area” is an area of erosion, where the sea is making its intrusion on the saltings. There has been a lot of erosion of the saltings due to the winter tides and each year the tide takes more away from “England” (and some say “gives it to Scotland!!). I continued floating with the tide giving me time to video the calmness and the evening song of the birds.

I noticed the saltings emerging from the tide; this grassy top would be part of another creek with the water going around it. These grassy banks would have been the ‘bottom’ that I had touched on my way up channel, half an hour before.

The out-going tide had shown me the entrance to this bay creek

I floated with the tide, past “Grune Point” with its look-out point and man-made structures, histories that are not recorded. When there is a lot of wind this area can be high swells.

I wanted to linger to enjoy the peace so I stayed within the eddy to delay my return.

The sun was setting behind clouds giving the sea a silvery glow.

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Getting nearer to my destination I began to touch bottom.

Then I grounded not too far from Sadaf. I simply tie the wheels to the back of the kayak and pulled it over the sands to the boat.

The moon came out later that night and it gave a nice reflection on the channel.


Moon reflected in water

In the evening I cooked, read my library book by lamp light “Testament of Youth” by Vera Brittain; and practiced my Pennie Whistle. I have been practicing the melodies from the Scottish Highland bagpipe repertoire entitled: “Teribus” and “Corrichoiles”. Here is a recording of the practice:

And so ended Day 1.

I am so pleased I brought the kayak as one can see different things by paddling, close up to the shore line, than when one is sailing, which can be ‘too far’ sometimes.

Who Needs an Anchor?

The tide was already coming in as we finished preparing Sadaf for sailing; we had finished the outside work of preparing the anchors, dinghy, and various other tasks. As we floated, we set the mainsail and the genoa.


Leila and I Leaving Port Carlisle

The wind was slight, 2-3 knots, and a sunny warm day, perfect conditions. We got rid of the mooring warp without problems and headed out past the harbour wall, into the main channel. The incoming tide was still strong, although it was getting shallower ever day, and we could not push against it so we ferry-glided across the estuary to Scotland and then back again to England; even so we were being pushed up the estuary and we had to wait for the ebb to bring us back to our original position.

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We did not make a lot of distance and we ran out of tide at Bowness-on-Solway and came to rest on the sands, just below the houses on the hill.
We had a nice walk on the beach to the viaduct and saw a beautiful sunset. We noticed pieces of tree trunks lying in the sand and we had seen some floating while sailing; also a metal stake was embedded into the sand just beyond Sadaf, which would have made a nice hole in the hull if she had landed on it.

We ate using the Trangia stove and then went to bed about 11pm. We woke before 4am and prepared to sail. It was dark and there was a strong easterly wind making out mooring for the night a lee-shore. The lee shore was not as bad as the mooring where I normally keep Sadaf, there it makes life on board uncomfortable, at Bowness it was more on the nose and the waves were hitting and glancing off. It remained dark as the flood tide came in and I decided not to sail as if something went wrong I could not see anything to fix the problem.

So I decided to stay until it was light and see what happened, the problem was I had not weighted the anchor warps and they have a tendency to go underneath the keels and snarl. So I went fore and kept moving the anchors if they looked like they were going under the hull, which they did do on occasions.

I have mentioned before in previous posts that the tides of the Solway estuary are strange, and on this occasion I was amazed to see how the anchors were useless. There was a fast flood tide which should have the anchor warps straining with its pull, but they were slack. We must have been positioned on a border line between the flood and a back current, as Sadaf was not moving (except from side to side) the flood and the eddy were keeping her in one position, no need for an anchor. She had positioned herself stern to the wind (east), with the fore facing into the flood (west), the anchor warps were loose (a Bruce and a grapnel), we just floated caught between 2 fast flowing pieces of water.

Eventually the ebb started just as the light came, we did not want to go further out with the ebb so we stayed anchored and did not sail. Sadaf turned with the ebb and she stayed on her mooring until she dried out, a short distance from the metal spike!

We slept until noon, and I noticed that she had dried out not too far from our previous position of last night. I prepared the boat and waited until 4.30pm when the tide came in. when it came it was a lot sluggish than before. I was wondering if Sadaf would float as the tides were getting shallower each day.

I had positioned the grapnel anchor in deeper water so to pull Sadaf in the right direction when we floated. The plan was to pull on the warp and float us out into the channel while reeling in the warp, but the grapnel warp anchor got snarled amongst the genoa sheet so there was no foresail at first.

With that free we sailed and tacked into deeper choppy water, wind against tide. Our intention was to get back to our mooring with this tide or we might be stranded on the sands for a week. In mid channel we tacked and again the grapnel anchor warp got tangled with the genoa sheets, wrapping themselves around each other making the use of the genoa useless. Stress, frustration and anger…

Once freed we tried tacking several times but the confused sea state (eddies, currents, waves) prevented us. We wanted to miss the harbour area as this had back-currents which would pull us back to Bowness. As we approached the harbour wall the wind died, on came the electric motor which gave us a little more way against the back-current from the harbour wall. I thought we had cleared the wall but we were pulled towards it with this back eddy. With the help of the motor we reached the shore and sailed and motored to the buoy of our mooring.

We dropped the Bruce (our grapnel was no longer possible to use as we had to unfasten it from the boat), but the warp of the Bruce anchor went underneath the hull as the wind pushed Sadaf onto the shore. I tried to back motor but the warp was firmly trapped underneath the hull.

There we sat, stern to the wind, as we waited for the ebb, and when it was shallower I jumped out, freed the warp and slowly walked Sadaf back to the mooring.
I noticed the propeller had come off the motor; the back motoring must have unscrewed the propeller nut. I thought I had lost it for good, but I later found the propeller in the sand, but not the nut.

We ate then slept, and the next morning we packed up and cycled home.

Here are more photos from the sail:

Copy of a

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In Coming Tide

They say the Solway Estuary has the 3rd fastest tidal flow in the UK. It is quite a boast, but when the tide is at its highest it can be quite something to see, especially with the Solway Bore.

A less modest, but also impressive experience is to stand in the flood tide and feel its power and force. The local Haaf Netters have done this for centuries, and can tell more stories about its power than I can, but I produced this video to show its force.

Carlisle’s Floods 2015 – a solution

Most people would have seen the flooding in Cumbria (and Southern Scotland) this December (2015) where the rivers became swollen and breached the flood defences in Appleby, Keswick, Pooley Bridge, Dumfries, Carlisle and elsewhere… there was a lot of talk on TV saying how there was “unprecedented rainfall” in Cumbria since records began. This rainfall fell on high ground (Lake District fells and the Pennines) and this saturated the ground and this fed into the rivers and they became torrents. These rivers all fed into the River Eden and this fed into the sea.

The last time this flooding happened was in 2007 (in fact there were smaller occurrences since 2007 but these did not make major news), and at the same time as the swollen rivers there were also very high tides on the Solway Estuary.

The various government agencies when looking at why the flooding happened in Carlisle only seemed to asses river levels. Their results focused on building flood defences, after estimating the future river levels.

What they did not notice or what is not so evident from news broadcasts is that the river levels reached their highest point around the area of Carlisle City because the flood water from rivers met the flood waters from the sea.

Carlisle is tidal, not many people know that. I have been carried all the way up to the outskirts of Carlisle by high tides. Starting at Drumbrugh in my sea kayak I was taken past Rockcliff and I was easily able to kayak up river Eden, have a sleep near to Cargo and come back on the same tide.

A week before Carlisle got flooded I was told and shown a video of the high tides at Port Carlisle. High tide was supposed to be at 4pm, and generally the tide starts coming in 1-2 hours before that. It races in and goes out more leisurely. But that week they were coming in about 12 noon, so that is 2-3 hours more water than usual. Therefore it is lingering longer and going out slower. That build up of water in the estuary and that water flowing over the salt marshes and up the river Eden would have a drastic effect. It would meet the River Eden in flood and the two waters would collide. It is possible they met near to Carlisle and they began to build up and over flow their banks.

There would have been no outlet for the meeting of the waters. The tide goes out and there is roughly 6-8 hours of dry sands (and salt marshes) for the rivers to drain into. Because of the tide lasting longer in the river Eden, and because of the tide covering the salt marshes and staying longer there, this would give time for the flooded rivers stay longer or to be held up moving on… they would build up on top of each other, there would be nowhere for the river to go except to widen its course.

They will talk of new defences again I am sure after the floods have gone and they will assess the damage. But I wonder if they will look at the sea?

I am not just going to criticize; one solution could be to divert the flooded rivers before the flood plain, somewhere before the motorway bridge, east of Carlisle. A canal or many irrigation ditches could be built and managed, so when a tidal surge and flooded rivers are likely to collide the canal’s gates could be open to let the flood waters be channelled in a direction away from the River Eden and Carlisle.

The area historically known as “The Debatable Land” is mainly low land, farm land and not used extensively. These flood canals could be fed into them causing little risk to houses or to live stock, they could be dug all the way to Rockcliff marshes and there (when the tide goes out) let onto the marshes to drain away with the tide’s ebb. The diverted route is perhaps 7-10 miles and this is already an extensive amount of water to fill the canals.

The cost of this could be considerable, but compared to the human loss and building flood walls which might add to the problem elsewhere it could be a solution. The canals could be used as a recreational waterway when the floods are not with us. Boating and kayaking, small craft sailing, swimming and walking along the dyke could be one way of creating income to pay for it.

Bailing Out…. a Folk Session

It was a wet night that I went down to the folk session at Bowness-on-Solway. I packed my concertina into a big black bag and cycled the 12 miles along waterlogged country roads. The weather in Cumbria has been particular wet these day (if you have been keeping an eye on the news you will have seen the flooding). I expected a bit of flooding on the roads so I was prepared to slow down and judge the situation, but as there was no moon and it was very dark I could not see the pieces of road that was underwater…the section of road which I was not prepared for.

Getting to the session I was a little late as I had to make a call in to see Sadaf. She has been sitting on her keels for 7 weeks and had been checked only a few times. She was ok, and has been ok amazingly over the weeks with all the flooding and rain. She leaks water above the sea-line from an unknown spot, it is rainwater and generally there is a trickle in the bilges, but because of the amount of rain we have had she has been full.

When I got there she was full too. I was surprised to see how much water had gotten into the bilges. It was not up to the cushions, but up to the floorboards. The only difference I could see that could account for the increase in water, was the front cover/plastic had blown off and rain was getting in from the fore section…I do not know from where?

Bailing her out took some time, each section had about 2 big buckets of rainwater to sponge out, and there was 5 sections. The area underneath the cockpit was dry! So I am thinking the leak is towards the front of the cabin. I will have to make some checks.

The Bowness folk session begins at 8.30pm and I just got there in time, the musicians were there and the pub was nice and warm to dry my coat. It is nice and relaxed, playing a mixture of southern English, Northumbrian, Scottish and locally penned songs/tunes. The songs are dominant and the guy who writes them was getting good responses to his humor. Besides the local musicians a guy called Steve came with his guitar to sing: and some tunes were played from the Playford’s manuscript.

The session ends roughly when they sing the “Haaf Netters Song” with audience participation, is has become a bit of a ritual there.

The session ended about 11pm.

Then the long cycle home, with the rain in my eyes, somewhere along the route I got a puncture, but the tired stayed up enough to get me home. I could hear the roar from the sea as it raced into the estuary.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi

I am just beginning listening to an audio book called, “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi. It is the 2nd time I am attempting this book, the first time was when I was corresponding with an Iranian friend who lived in Tehran at the time. She raised objections to the book (I am not sure if she had read it) and I put it away as it caused her some anxiety. Now I feel I can look at it again and listen to it with new ears.

It is not as bad as what my friend was saying; in fact the author says that the book “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov, is not a symbol for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since I have just started this book I am not sure how the book Lolita fits in with her narrative of Iran or her students whom she is teaching, but time will tell. It is her own personal impressions of Iran, her students which have been turned into a novel.

Since my first attempt at “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, I have met other Iranians and have gotten to know life in Iran from several different perspectives, and I find that listening to this book I am finding out that what the book says and what my friends say are not to dissimilar. I mean, there are similarities even though one is a book’s description and another is someone’s memories. Both have a love of “Iran” and a critique of the system, I find nothing distasteful with this. To look at a country through rose-coloured spectacles is not healthy and it can be quite naive to think a country can be idealized to “others” at the same time being distasteful to ones life, this is not an honest representation.

We shall see the book develops…
As I read further, I can begin to see other aspects of the authors writing. She is writing the book in the USA, she is remembering Iran, and she is remembering her life in the USA with occasional references to her life in the USA today. It is all mixed up, it is not a narrative telling a story of events in any order, and it flits from books to life to memories to countries.

The events in Iran during her time there are obviously bad memories: the invasion into her home from the “police” is thought-provoking, but is it so different from the British police breaking down your door in the early morning on a police raid (guilty until proven innocent?), is she saying that these intrusions into ones home only happen in Iran or in any totalitarian state? She is not including USA or the UK or any other “western democratic country”?

She is obviously bitter to what happened to her father as Mayor of Tehran, but does not corruption exist in all politics? These things are not solely in Iran. The incarceration of the group of women in the north of Iran is harrowing reading, and the virginity tests they are subjected too made me feel “sad and angry” but after a while it becomes a catalogue of disturbing events… and I find myself becoming numb to it all.

Where is the alternative side of Iranian life? She must have experienced some happiness there? I know in totalitarian regimes there are still hope and laughter, friends and ways of finding happiness.

Her bags are searched in the airport as she enters Iran from the USA, well has she never been to Manchester airport and the rough way they handle delicate belongings like musical instruments?

She has been subjected to political activism in the 1960s/70s in the USA, she is radicalized and she is transporting that radicalism to Iran… why is she so sure Iran wants that radicalization? So many Ex-pats think they know better than the people who live there!

It is a book of contradictions, and the subject matter of her novels…it is a layered cake of pessimism, I wonder where she is going with it? Her book is like the regime she is condemning (even though she claims not to) negative and dark, perhaps one-sided and it needs a bit of lighter moments to make it believable.

In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust.

(Or as I remember it, in Carlisle library when I was a teenager, “Remembrance of Things Past).

“Swan’s Way” the first book…

I have been trying this audio book for 1 week, I am struggling with it. It reminds me of Flaubert “Madame Bovary” with its mundane talk, its stillness, lack of movement, detail to detail. My God, how he goes into detail, flowery, in-depth, precise analytical descriptions. And for all that it is brilliant, if you can bare all that then it takes you into another world, a secure world like he is describing of its time. His childhood, his adulthood, his family and servants, friends and environment is all minutely described and this paints pictures in one’s head, you can enter and live it, if you are also in that frame of mind.

And that’s the problem; in this day and age we are not always in that state of mind; as it paints a picture of a static society not a movable one, as is ours today. It is like a painting hanging in a gallery where we stop and look into it, it is not like a video where we stop and it moves and passes us by. You have to enter into it or it is a nothing. So sometimes I struggle with it as I am not in that static state of mind.

I looked into this book when I was a teenager but when I saw the many volumes on the shelves I did not bother with it, I am pleased I never tackled it then as I certainly would not have continued with it, but now I will keep going, it is not a book where I can linger though, but I do appreciate its prose and descriptions.

The L Shaped Room (film and novel)

Last night I watch the film called “The L Shaped Room”, directed by Bryan Forbes from 1960. I had read the novel a while ago, the same title as the film written by Lynne Reid Banks, and wanted to compare the two. The book I had picked up in a market from Eccles many years ago I had not heard of it before but reading the back of the cover I was intrigued.

The film differed from the book, often the film is poorer than the book but I think the film brought to life certain aspects that the book hinted at, and the film became a separate creation. The leading heroine is French in the film and English in the novel, why? Well, I guess it brought up certain aspects of “foreign-ness” the war was mentioned, adding something to past and the now (1960). The negro character had a strange role in the film he is hinted as being gay, but I would say he is more A-sexual, as though a negro cannot be allowed to feel any sex or to listen to it, or have a relationship except for his gift with music.

The men in the film are either drunks, sexual predators, or in the main characters weak and unsuccessful. The writer cannot sell his novels, he backs away from responsibilities, he wants sex but not commitment, although he tries he cannot accept the baby, which is not his… at least this is honesty. In the book the heroine is English, pregnant, does not enjoy sex, independent minded… all complex characters. All living in a house which is odd… the L shaped room indicates all is not “straight” sexuality, jobs, relationships, etc.

There are 2 other books from this novel: “The Backward Shadow”, and “Two is Lonely” I must track them down.