Friday, December 28, 2007

Crackers, Christmas and Cammag!

A fabulous Christmas it has been, with much merriment, activity and an occasional beverage...
The Sunday sea kayak sessions just before Christmas proved memorable, putting on at Fleshwick to provide shelter from the increasing South Westerly...

The Intermediate group did a little exploring of the rocky playground before heading South to the old Copper and Lead mines below Bradda Head. After an exciting surf landing on the boulder beach, the group headed for grassy knoll at an entrance to a Copper mine for some well earned refreshments.
It was an ideal opportunity for a small foray into the mine itself, and the phrase 'entering a different world' was very apt. Many of the 'tunnel's in the rock (and judging by appearences, the confidence building timber roof supports) originally date back to the second half of the 18oo's. The delvings of this particular network had yielded relatively little amounts of minerals for the ore removed, leaving a small mine easilly explorable in the time we had. As a comparison, sections of Glen Rushen mine (often referred to as Foxdale mines) which predominantly extracted Lead (and a very small quantity of Silver) have tunnels below the depth of 600m!
The Isle of Man had peaked on its mining production, and mines began to close at the beginning of the 20th Century. By this point, the Island was resposible for 5% of all the Lead produced in the UK and Laxey provided an estimated 20% of the Zinc!

Having spoken to miners who worked in the extensive 'pits' in the UK and read what I can, i'm in absolute amiration (and not the smallest bit of jealousy) at the working conditions they endured and ability to deal with adversity on a daily basis. It puts into perspective what a 'hard day's work' is... and reinforces my belief that I have the best job in the world!!

Whilst negotiating unlikely looking 'well weathered' planks over shafts along our route, (or perhaps worse, the absence of them in places) elements of the group seems less interested in the topic of working conditions, and most interested in the quickest route out...

This little adventure had the very positive effect of making the surf launch back out into the now delightfully challenging surf and wind seem plausable in comparison! A following breeze ensured a rapid return to Fleshwick Beach.
Meanwhile the Intro-mediate session had been running in the bay, where Sarah and Jessica passed the new UKCC 2 Star Test in kayaks, so a big congratulations to them!

The new personal performance star awards from the British Canoe Union have been rolled out successfully, and being a BCU accredited centre we keep up to date with developments, offering the new Star Tests and Coaching Awards in 2008!

On a different note; Jeff Norville, my paddling partner on the Vancouver Circumnavigation Record, has confirmed his attendance at the 2008 Adventure Week, (along with many other entertaining coaches) where he will be our Saturday evening guest speaker, as well as teaming up again in the 'Mighty Triton' looking to set a record time in the inaugural 'double kayak' category of the round the Isle of Man Race...
The traditional Christmas Day paddle organised by Jan and Terry, from Port St Mary (made even more pleasurable by the addition of a drop of Scotch all round) ensured a fair appetite for the glorious repast on return to base. Then it was a 'early night' in preparation for the legendary game of Cammag!

For those new to this sport, it kicks off (literally) at 2pm every Boxing Day, on the Tynwald Fairfield, overlooked by Tynwald Hill and has been described as;
a Manx form of the Irish Game of Hurley, traditionally played all over the island, with matches beginning on 26th December 'Hunt the Wren' day.

Those who have played may also refer to it as;

a meeting of a great many people, armed with implements often made of wood, forming sides of 'The North' and 'The South', involving a scoring against the opposing side with a ball (but this is not necessarily the primary objective), there are no rules as such but there is a referee - John Kaneen - armed with a whistle, strolling about bellowing encouragement to the North side, and administering large measures of scotch at breaks between the three halves of the 'match', particularly as a painkiller for those on the receiving end of the rough and tumble..

The truth depends very much on the perspective and experiences of the viewer (or player). This year the South (whom I happily play for) won, although during the mass confusion and in some cases a combination of blood, sweat and tears, who was on which side was difficult to make out. The North originally held a complete monopoly on the Cammag trophy, but recruitment by the South in recent years (and the moving of boundaries between the North and South) has resulted in some excellent results for the South, culminating in the 2007 5:1 victory. There are varying levels of 'skill', many wide swings and attempts at the ball, with intermittant rugby tactics, often to no avail. The growing number of ladies and youngsters partaking has mellowed the game, from what was traditionally a men's sport. And as with any game played with good humour, those who want to challenge each other hard can do so, and a post match genuine shaking of hands displays the absence of malice on the pitch.

So for those who fancy an unforgettable adventurous experience of a different nature, 2pm, 26th December 2008! 'Proper' hockey and hurley sticks are frowned upon (a stem of gorse, suited to the player is traditional), although pots, pans, buscuit tins and lengths of 2 by 2 have been known! See you there...
Pics by Mike Wade

Monday, December 17, 2007

* Corporate Christmas Paddles *

As predicted, (and at this time of year luck was certainly a contributary factor :)) Peel proved the ideal venue for today's corporate christmas paddle, a new and very different idea for organisations. One which has seen an increase in popularity this year. Meeting up at Fenella Beach at 10am, and a fair nip to the air, I saw more than one questioning face... Donning cosy warm fleeces and waterproof tops combined, and other comfortable fitted kit with clear instruction and explanations of how to stay dry & warm and manoeuvre the kayaks, the group embarked on an excursion down the Sandstone coastline, with Peel Castle's distinct outline providing an ideal backdrop for photos.
Peel Sandstone (a rock coloured red by the presence of iron oxide prevalent in this area) is actually a mixture of mudstone, sandstone and conclomerate deposits, eroded from the ancient Caledonian Mountains about an etimated 400 million years ago. The rocks give evidence that this area was then hot and semi-arid, with distinguishable series of sand dunes, ripples from previous rivers and layers of lake mudstone and deposited sandstone with nodular calcrete, telling a story of a hot climate with seasonal rainfall and floods, in this Devonian period. Certain elements of this climate seem to have changed as the continental plate carrying our delightful island, headed away from the Equator :)
So the feeling of contentment as you paddle along the coast can be further enriched, as it provides an insight into how the the whole Island was formed, in the earlier Ordovician period; it too as layers of sediment eroded, deposited and hardened over time in layers of siltstone, sandstone and mudstone.

The guess that initial instruction would be more beneficial to this group than being subjected to geological ravings paid off and ensured very relaxed paddle, keeping close to shore and past the Stack. Flasks of hot drinks, mince pies and even a random chocolate orange appeared at the half way break at Cains Strand. Then time to head back round into Peel bay, with time to chat and enjoy the scenery, and the icing on the cake; finishing with a circumnavigation of St Patrick's Isle!
Built in the 14th Century on the 'Isle', Peel Castle was the dwelling of Monks, and within its walls are the historic Round Tower and St German's Cathedral, (built in the 12th and 13th century respectively.) Peel Sandstone was well used both for its decorative value and its ease of working, being a 'freestone' and can be "cut and worked in any direction without fracturing". The grey slate outer walls were built a century after the Castle was constructed.
Had we headed South from Peel, we would have kayaked past excellent examples of how continental collision causing metamorphism to the sedimentary rocks (subjecting them to immense pressure and heat), causing the tilted and folded formations, now with intermittant caves and gullies, and the home of grey seals and marine birds, as well as our summer visitors, nesting Puffins, Eider Ducks, Guillimots and Razorbills, to name but a few.

These paddles and more will soon feature on the website, (a complete overhaul of the whole site is near completion.) We have updated the content to clearly display what we offer, reflect who we are and most importantly what we can do.

Todays pictures - predominantly taken by Sam Murphy on this paddle - and the very positive feedback from the whole group during and after the trip, reinforce one of 'quotes' we have adopted as part of our philosopy;

"There is no such thing as bad weather, just people dressed inadequately for the conditions..."

Selection of venue, top quality gear and most importantly, experienced and motivated staff guarantee a Safe, Fun, Learning environment.
I am immensely proud of our staffing team and their dedication, and in response to customer feedback, the 'about us' page now has staff profiles;

which appear when you click on the photo's. These are the primary staff, but not all of the folk who assist us with sessions. The last Introduction to Sea Kayaking of 2007 was completed on Sunday, with people wishing to join the Adventure Club and others asking about buying their own kayaks and kit. As always we recommend Kelvins Tackle (fishing and kayaking supplies) in Michael St, Peel (moving to larger premises in January, still in Michael St) where the friendly staff will be pleased to help and advise you. Beginners packages including sit upon fishing kayaks are always available.

The aim of a coach is to provide the student with the necesary personal skills to safely enjoy the sport at whatever level they aspire to, give instruction and guidance when required, and the freedom to be "the master of their own ship." Some paddlers may never take formal instruction, others desire the reassurance and tuition from a experienced coach while they master the basics of the sport. Others want to turn up at the beach, be provided with the best quality kayaks and gear available, enjoy the social, technical expertise, and a progressive learning program within a current modern framework, with the added bonus of no kit to sort and wash at the end of the session!
We cater for all abilities, including absolute beginners. The key theme all of our students arrive with is that they want an Unforgettable Adventurous Experience.

To conclude this epic entry, the expeditions page has also been updated, with details of this years expeditions, and the next Youth Expedition to Norway in 2009....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

something more Adventurous...

The last few weeks have been on the windy side, and no shortage of rain either!
Whilst we've been finding sheltered locations for beginners, the Adventure Club Intro-mediates and Intermediates have been after something more adventurous, without the wind!

Advanced staff training has been focused on hill walking and navigation @ night, and those who are completing their VHF course with the Coastguard. Coaching has been very concentrated, and fewer pictures are getting taken.
The first Christmas party activities day this year took place on Friday, with a corporate group from the UK. Despite heavy rain all night prior and high winds continuing on the day, the group were in high spirits when we collected them from the airport in the morning. Laxey provided a very shelted location, and the sea kayak trip was a beauty. Then off to the Miners Tavern where Pete cooked a splendid repast, and the group reinforced their courage with strong cups of tea... Coasteering finished the outdoor activities for the day, as darkness called an end to the session. Very memorable and highly enjoyable, and I look forward to see you all again.
With Peel pool open again, we did an additional Sunday early morning session (and also took the opportunity to introduce Alice and Katia to getting wet in and out of the kayaks) prior to heading for Peel bay for the Intro-mediates introduction to surf kayaking... ideal conditions for the group ensured smiles all round. With surf dropping off and the river levels perfect, the Intermediates met up at Adventurous Experiences base, and then ran the Neb for the second week! The pic is from the final drop at Emery's Pool, before a small wier and the final run to get out. Well done everyone on such a fantastic day!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

All in a day's work...

We've had striking sunsets, flat calm seas, wind, rain and a mixture of them - all in one day, or varying massively from day to day. Rock Climbing is happening regularly and there is some excellent talent in the making! And despite gusty days, we're using locations which provide ideal learning conditions for our different ability groups.

Sunday's sessions (Intro to Sea Kayaking group, Adventure Club beginners, Intro-mediates, and Intermediates groups) were all run from Laxey Beach. A delightful stretch of coast for exploring, heading South past Herons and Shags, waterfalls from the recent rain, mating Seals in the rocky 'alcoves' and a fair few ducks on the water. Those who paddled North gazed beneith the towering cliffs and lesser used Climbing crags, round to Bulgham bay to spy the illusive Wild Goats grazing. Then on past secluded beaches, Dhoon bay and waterfall to Port Cornaa, a rocky beach with adjacent car park.

Engrained as one of our family favourite locations to visit, the lower fields and land belong to the Barony, who kindly give public access, enabling us as kids to race down the footpath, through the woodland to the fresh water pool.

The fastest and bravest plunges boldly in first, coming to the surface gasping and shrieking at the intense cold!!

The little river which feeds this natural beauty spot pours through Ballaglass Glen, gushing down the small falls, splattering the rocks and vegetation, past the old mill wheels and creating an almost fairytale, peaceful atmosphere.

After hot chocolate, sponge cake and various other treats, it time to paddle back to the beach, and reality again!

The Adventure Club is growing steadilly, with most members having sea kayaking as their primary focus. This may be because, especially in the pool sessions, students have had an instructor coaching one or two pupils, which is very fortunate and above even our generous instructor to client ratios. As a result students learn fast, and push their personal boundaries, taking maximum advantage of ample learning opportunities throughout.

The Adventure Club is a lot more than a group of individuals, and reasons why our members stay with us and continue to be so motivated, are greatly influenced by how all members operate as a team, have appreciation of each others progress and challenges and therefore get much more from every session. Our students learn from formal demonstrations and exercises as well as informal input from our staff, from the environment we have selected for that session, from others around them, and the feedback they receive from all these areas.

Our students trust that our staff have the customer as their primary focus and the experience to ensure the best progressive learning program for them, by building skills through experiencing varying situations and sea states, session upon session.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Year-round Adventurous Experiences...

We're often asked when our 'season' finishes and "what do we do in the winter"?

My answer as always is that we operate all year round, but dress dependant upon conditions and what activities we are participating in. We provide super fleecy tops and winter drycags on the sea when its colder, because of course its more fun when your warm and dry.

FACT - every one of our record days on the water, have been in the colder months!
This week has given a mixture of 'chilly' sunny days, and others that have been overcast, with a delightful combination of wind and rain...

We live on a very versatile Island, with plenty of little places to hide from the weather should it be adverse, and so many places to capitalise on when its fantastic. 'Toddler' seals are scattered about many of the rocky inlets, and you may not even realise they are there until your close by...
Beginners kayak courses, and rock climbing sessions are still very popular at weekends. Theory sessions on hill navigation will begin on Tuesday evenings whilst the pool is closed, and we are taking bookings for Christmas Sea Kayak Trips and Coasteering sessions.

To help you with your bookings, we have updated our website to make the details of our trips, courses and activities more clear, and to put our prices for all activities in one place for convenience.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wildlife in Abundance!

A delightful sea kayak trip out of Port Erin Beach, with a break to admire the seal display off Kitterland. Very often if we just sit there, inquisitive seals will come right up to the kayaks. Larger pups sometimes 'nussle' the smooth gellcoat, gently tug the carry toggles with their teeth and adult seals nudge the kayaks about with their noses. This playfulness suggests that (as with most marine life) the impact of unobtrusive kayaks is minimal and obviously the seals choose to enjoy the interaction. Being there to soak in these experiences accentuates the joy of being outdoors, especially on the sea in the colder months when increased visability sharpens perceptions and the low angle of the sun illuminates the caves and caverns like torchlight, with the familiar sight of Cormorants and Shags lining the rocks along the route, and cries of various gulls keeps reminding me how lucky we are, and how I love the Isle of Man!
As Peel Pool is having necessary maintenance work, we decided to offer the students on the Oct Pool Course a night paddle off Peel instead! Perfect conditions with a clear starry sky, bright moon and not a ripple on the sea. A very memorable evening for all. Since the smoking Canon incident, night photo's don't come out so well..

A favourite location of ours for Coasteering, St Patrick's Isle, also offers an array of wildlife if you look carefully.. Turnstones, prevailent around Peel "spend most of their time creeping and fluttering over rocks, picking out food from under stones" RSPB Website -
(These were just alongside the group.)
Apart from meeting the 'resident' seal who frequents the cave that reaches right under the castle, and pass beneith the location where Princess Fenella met her end, it is an undeniably stunning location to participate in activities.