CackleTV images

Recent Posts

New Cackle TV blog & website

January rolling practice

"This is canoeing" cover done!!

Esquif & Kokatat sponsor "This is Canoeing"

Skiing...... in Wales!!

Original art

Snowy Snowdon horseshoe

Sunny Snowy Wales

Fifth Award for "South island circumnavigation"

Festive paddle

On The Web

Body Boat Blade

Keirron's Blog

Derrick's Blog

December 2004

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

Current Posts

 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Magic on your doorstep
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I am blessed that after a not-so-wonderful day in front of a computer I have many fantastic locations on my doorstep where I can go and completely forget everyday life for a few hours. Last night the great escape was to Penrhyn Mawr tidal race with Gemma. The playspot can always be relied on to provide waves in some form or other and has the added advantage of being no more than a 20 minute paddle from Porthdafarch Beach. Last night there was a few foot of swell, a force3 wind and a bit of a bouncy ride out there. Great!

We got there about an hour before peak flow and the race was already in full glory with white walls of water crashing down. "Those waves look pretty powerful actually", said Gemma from the safety of the eddy. "um, they do" I replied as my heart started racing a little more. In we plunged, pointing our kayaks forward against the flow and trying to ride the surges that lifted the backs of our boats. As we took different lines (or were taken on different lines!) we were almost immediately a hundred metres apart from each other and I found it hard to see Gemma with 5 or 6 lines of waves inbetween us. This wasn't a day to be doing your own thing and I dropped back so we could paddle within sight of each other. And what a fantastic evening of waves we had. There is no better way to light up your life again than a blast with nature where you have to be alert at all times - get it wrong and you know you'll be trying to roll in very confused water, but get it right and you are harnessing the immense surging power of the glorious sea. Now there's a feeling!

Penrhyn Mawr is different every day - and yesterday the swell was making it very confused. There was a set of waves entering the race at right angles to the main flow so waves were breaking from all directions. You could be surfing down a steep face one second and then a set of waves would come in from your right and you'd suddenly be surfing uphill, then downhill, then uphill again.... a bit like a rollercoaster. Then of course the waves would combine so that you could be on top of a surging pyramid of water one second and dropping vertically downwards the next instant as the colliding waves moved off in different directions. My trusty kayak did things that it's never done before in a tidal race and four or five times the waves combined so my speeding kayak was stopped dead and the whole front end buried completely in the sea. I was pushing my limits and I was amazed that I didn't loop - although we did have 3 rolls between us!

I'm sure there are people shaking their heads at this description and thinking 'it couldn't possibly have been like that'! To be honest, I don't really care if you don't believe me - I go surfing to get away from the petty things in life like backstabbing and jealousy, and if I can inspire a few other people to just get out there and try it (whatever 'it' is) then that is an added bonus that I'm proud of. I think it's amazing what people can do when they just try - and surely it's better to be using your energy positively for yourself than wasting it bitching about other people!

Well, that was much more of a rant than I'd intended to spew out - it must have been a really bad day in the office yesterday! Here are some photos to try to capture what it was like yesterday. They're crap of course because it was much too scary to take my hands off the paddle in the race, but you get a bit of a feel of it I hope!

Right I can't put it off any more.... back to work!

Photos of Newfoundland and Michigan
Monday, June 20, 2005

You can now see some new photos from Justine and Alun's recent trip to Newfoundland and the Great Lakes, just click on the galleries page. Justine was guest speaker at 2 symposiums which were great fun, and we also did some good kayaking and filming in each location. There will be features on Newfoundland and a trip to the Manitou Islands on lake Michigan in the sequel to 'This is the Sea' (due out this Fall). There will also be a feature on the Grenland-style paddler Doug Van Dorren who shows that the Greenland-style blade can be used effectively for touring and in rough conditions. I have some lovely shots of him rolling with a camera mounted on his kayak and you can see the motion of his body and blade under the water really clearly.

Birds, birds and more birds in Newfoundland
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

We’re home in Wales after a packed & fun 3 weeks away. The last 9 days paddling in Newfoundland was a fantastic chance to get to know a bit more of the island, which has a knack of sneaking into your heart the more time you spend there. Alun and I had originally intended to go for a self-sufficient camping trip and explore one area in detail. However, we were filming for the sequel to ‘This is the Sea’ and the Tourism department in Newfoundland agreed to give us some financial support in the form of a hire car and a couple of internal flights so we could head straight for some of Newfoundland’s kayaking hotspots – and there are many to chose from! On the first day back, we kayaked out to Witless Bay Nature Reserve with Richard Alexander, a local kayaking instructor and very nice man. We were almost instantly paddling around small islands amongst thousands and thousands of birds - puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots (called Murres in Newfoundland) and the odd razorbill. It was a bit like being at home, but I’ve never seen so many birds in one place – some friends of mine described paddling under a cliff in Iceland as being in a ‘blizzard of birds’ and I think it must have been similar. The only difference in Newfoundland is that in a few weeks time Witless Bay will also be full of humpback whales – every year they come for the same reason the birds are there….lots and lots of fish.

The next day we drove south west for a couple of hours to ‘Cape St Mary’, a huge gannet colony in an incredible position. About fourteen thousand gannets are nesting on one big sea stack, which is almost close enough to the mainland to jump to. We drove down on a beautiful sunny day but as we approached the coast we saw that someone had plastered a thick layer of fog on the cliffs – fairly typical in Newfoundland we were learning. We walked along the cliffs towards the colony in about 30 metres visibility and the sound of gannets chattering and squabbling echoed in our ears long before we saw them. Suddenly a white stack appeared just in front of us and I realised we were looking slightly down on a prime piece of gannet real-estate, birds were shoulder to shoulder on every available bit of space making the whole stack look white. Several hundred other gannets swarmed overhead in seemingly random directions and it sounded like everyone was talking at once. It was an incredible experience, even more amazing because the nearest gannets were only about 5 metres away and they all seemed completely oblivious to our presence. We sat mesmerised for 2 hours, watching preening sessions between pairs and fights between neighbours (a hazard of living within pecking distance of 2 or 3 other nest sites). We learnt that the flights had a pattern and saw at close quarters how the birds turned, stalled and landed by their tiny nests. A few carried twigs or green tatters of old fishing nets as new material.

The fog shifted slightly and at times we could see the sea at the bottom of the stack, but mostly the sky around remained a grey murk and the white rock of gannets shone out like a lone beacon. We had hoped to paddle around to the colony by sea but reluctantly decided that there was little point in attempting the 12km paddle along steep cliffs if we couldn’t see anything. We’d been told that the wind was shifting from the SW (which always brings fog) to the West or NW (which brings clear weather) but after 3 hours of waiting it was getting too late to start the paddle. We decided to drive back 10km to a pretty fishing village called ‘Branch’ which was out of the fog and do a short paddle around there. When we returned to the Cape, it looked like it might be clearing and we opted to stay in nearby Placentia that night and cross our fingers for good weather the next morning.

When the dawn broke we weren’t disappointed – clear skies and sun beckoned us southwards and we enjoyed views of cliffs and storm beaches that had been cloaked by fog the day before. At the fishing village of “St Brides’, we pulled our kayaks through squidgy seaweed and launched into an almost flat calm sea. We’d been warned that Cape St Mary’s can be wild and stormy with big swells and strong tides, but today it was a beautiful mellow place to be – probably just as well with a 12 km paddle along steep cliffs ahead of us. The scenery was very dramatic; red and black layers of rock, splatterings of yellow lichen and some really interesting geology. We came around a corner and thought we spotted a dramatic thin waterfall several hundred metres high, but as we got closer we realised that it was a vertical white layer of quartz which had been eroded more than the surrounding rock – it was the best non-waterfall that I’ve ever seen!

As we approached the gannet colony the sound of birds echoed all around us, and they were everywhere. Rafts of hundreds of guillemots took flight as we approached them, the splatter of their bodies crashing on the water being replaced by the quick shwoosh of tiny wings against air. A little higher, Kittiwakes moved in gangs, squawking in unison and flying a little slower. Above them again were the gannets soaring in circles on a never-ending circuit for nest material and food. A few came a little closer to have a look at us and then went back to their daily business. It was amazing how the different birds all lived so close together in what seemed like peaceful co-existence. They all live in their isolated colonies – guillemots at the bottom of the cliff, kittiwakes in the middle and gannets on the sea stack with a bit of overspill onto the upper part of the mainland cliffs. They narrowly avoid each other on their flight paths and presumably feed on slightly different food.

We watched for a while in admiration, filmed the birds from this new perspective and turned back for the ride home. It was calm enough for us to land on a small cobbly beach for lunch and as we enjoyed our sandwiches a minke whale cruised on by…. what a great place!

After that trip and a bit of filming with Linda Bartlett, we flew up to the northernmost tip of Newfoundland where we were very well looked after at Quirpoon lighthouse and where we had the pleasure of kayaking with icebergs (well, iceberg!) and whales. More on that another day soon….. and I’ll also post some photos from Newfoundland and Lake Michigan in the next week or two. In the meantime, you can see some photos and a write-up of the trip we did to the Manitou Islands and the symposium on Derrick Mayolith’s website…

until the next time!

 Back To Index