Posted on September 21, 2011 @ 9:43 AM in
The North Coast Sea Kayak Trail is anticipated to become one of the most iconic sea kayak trips in Europe. It will stretch 70 nautical miles from Magilligan to Waterfoot along the North Coast’s rugged headlands and spectacular sandy beaches encompassing the famous Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge.
The travel press from Great Britain and beyond have been quick to realise the potential of the trail with several journalists queuing up to preview the route before its official launch in March 2012.
Freelance journalist Helen Ochyra enjoyed two days on the trail with local providers Simply Sea Kayak resulting in a big thumbs up in both The Independent and Easy Jet In Flight Magazine.
An excerpt from Helen’s piece highlights the majesty of the trail “Arriving from the water, I saw the 40,000 or so basalt columns of the Causeway in a way most people never do – towering above me in pillars of all sizes like some spooky stage set. Bobbing rhythmically on the vast calm of the Atlantic and detached from the visitors ashore, I felt like I had the place to myself.”
CanoeNI.com is over the moon with the coverage of the trail has received to date and is currently working with both Wanderlust Magazine and an Australian TV company to further the exposure.
The trail will not be officially launched until March 2012 with the ribbon cutting at the newly refurbished bothy at Port Moon near Dunseverick, however the information is now live on the website so you can map out your first expedition.
Posted on August 8, 2011 @ 5:00 PM in
If you are like me the first thing you will read before buying any canoeing equipment will be the gear reviews. The opinion of fellow paddlers is much more important than any marketing spin the company can put on the item.
Having just returned from an epic 71 day solo circumnavigation of Ireland I caught up with Elaine ‘Shooter’ Alexander to find out what she though of the gear she used throughout the trip.
Elaine’s 1000 mile sea kayaking trip certainly tested all her gear to breaking point so there’s no better person to give a critical review.
Elaine paddled a Valley Etain LV
Good Points: Comfortable, stable, watertight, handled well and was quick in a headwind. The layout and design of the hatches and the removable storage was great, as I said earlier no water ingress on the complete trip. The boat was quick, responsive and a pleasure to paddle.
Negative Points: When the kayak is fully laden it will need the addition of a keel strip, as launching and landing on a solo trip means it can be prone to damage easily.
I also had some issues with the skeg and the cable getting kinked- I am more of a rudder paddler (and this could be where the fault lies), but when the cable is damaged it can leave the skeg unusable- not great when you are on your own.
Overall Review: Overall the Valley Etain LV was a great addition to the trip, it was a comfortable boat that reacted well in all that was asked from it. The negative points could perhaps be more to do with how I actually used the kayak, however I think that Valley perhaps could also consider the points I have raised and definitely look at the design of the skeg cabling and the keel strip.
I would highly recommend the kayak, and the service from Valley- any replacement parts or advice was given or sent without question and immediately. My thanks go to them (in particular to Jason and Andy), for their support on this endeavour.
Elaine used a Full Carbon Composite Lendal Touring Paddle, Kinetic Touring Small blades, Straight Shaft (smaller circumference), STD grips.
Good Points: Comfortable, durable (I think they are indestructible!), light, nice to handle, They were one piece, and this actually ensured they were stronger and lighter – something I would say anyone thinking of doing an expedition like this should consider.
Negative Points: Hard to actually pick something, but one thing I would have loved these paddles to feature, is the rubber drip ring to stop water running up the shaft – Petty I know, but on a 1000 mile trip it is these little things start to get to you!
Overall Review: The paddle was another great addition to the trip- there was the right level of flex to ensure that with every stroke you could feel the power transfer, it was comfortable in the hand, and thankfully as I am pretty small, I had asked for the smaller circumference shaft. Thankfully I never had to use the splits, but on review they seem more than adequate and suitably strong.
Elaine wore a YAK Buoyancy Aid –Tahu , PEAK Storm Dry Bottoms, and YAK Conquest (Long sleeve), YAK Fusion (Short sleeve) cags.
YAK Buoyancy Aid –Tahu
Good Points: Comfortable, pockets well placed and sized. No damage after continual daily usage to zips, webbing or fabric.
Negative Points: None
Overall Review: A fantastic piece of kit, ideal touring buoyancy aid- would highly recommend this to any paddlers.
PEAK Storm Dry Bottoms
Good Points: Reinforced fabric socks under which I wore neoprene socks. These were waterproof and comfortable for approx half of the trip (they were used 80% of the trip).
Negative Points: During the second half of the trip, as the bottoms were no longer fully waterproof (water ingress came from abrasion damage due to sand trapped in and around the seat), it meant that at the end of every days paddling I had to completely dry out my kit
Overall Review: Overall these bottoms were grand, they were used almost for the entire trip – even when there were some leaks. The damage came about through no fault of the manufacturer, instead it came from their use in a pretty hostile environment. I would recommend these bottoms.
YAK Conquest (Long sleeve), YAK Fusion (Short sleeve) cags
Conquest - comfortable, warm, durable and well designed.
Fusion - light, comfortable and well designed
Conquest- Wrist seals were too loose meaning that my arms were continually getting wet, until the use of good old duct tape!
Fusion- After only two weeks of use the Cag started to fall apart under the arms, and some of the stitching on the front started to disintegrate.
Overall Review: Over all they were totally different, the Conquest as it is designed specifically for expedition paddling was great, although the wrist seals were quite loose.
I was very disappointed with the Fusion, perhaps it was due to the level of usage or due to the salt water, but in my opinion this Cag should have stood up to the usage quite a bit better than it did. I was again impressed with the level of service from the manufacturer-YAK, they replaced a Cag at the start of the trip immediately and without question.
The dry bags
Elaine used EXPED – Fold Dry Bags
Good Points: These dry bags stood the test fantastically well; they were used and abused on a daily basis, pulled in and out of hatches and thrown down on different surfaces
Negative Points: None with these- however I also had some Trek Mate and Decathlon dry bags, these were not as durable as the EXPED bags, in fact the Trek Mate ones totally fell apart!
Overall Review: As I had a range of sizes in these, I had the right size for the right use; they were hardwearing though light, tough and dependable.
Elaine used a RUK Kayak Trolley
Good Points: Paddling solo, these are an absolute necessity, unless you wish to remove all kit in total before transporting from the slipway to campsite! Easy to assemble and disassemble ensuring easy stowage in one of the hatches, and surprisingly strong.
Negative Points: The wheels are too narrow for effective use in sand. Also, carry spare pins as if these get dropped, damaged or lost then the wheels are useless!
Overall Review: As stated above this is an essential piece of kit- they worked well and were dependable, my only negative point was their use in sand, however I can understand that to increase the wheel size would possibly make them hard to store in the hatches- therefore the trade off. Also definitely carry spare pins.
Elaine slept in a Karrimor Ultra LiteTent
Good Points: Easy to set up and take down even in poor conditions. Good storage space inside. This tent took a lot of abuse and didn’t let me down.
Negative Points: In a gale force wind the main pole snapped, although no tent could have stood that particular night without receiving some level of damage. Also at the end of the trip the ground sheet was no longer waterproof, again due to continual usage and wear and tear.
Overall Review: A great tent, and not that expensive.
Considering that I used this same tent on my trip around Ulster last year, I was well chuffed with the service it continued to give on this trip. Even when the main pole snapped – it had a repair kit that included a tube that repaired the pole ensuring the tent could still be used. Also the fact the groundsheet started to leak was due to the level of abuse this tent has received. I would give this piece of kit full marks.
Elaine used a SPOT messenger GPS Device
Good Points: Simple to use, added that bit of security and peace of mind to me (and my family).
Negative Points: Must be facing the sky to transmit so needs to be on deck of boat somewhere.
Overall Review: A fantastic piece of kit, worked well throughout the trip. The ease of setting up and integration within the website ensured that this became one of the most important aspects of the expedition- especially for any followers.
This meant that they could see my location and distance traveled, also I could load up photos or video and link them to their location on the map to give followers a better feel for the expedition. The added safety feature of the emergency button also meant that if I had got into any difficulties then up to 10 contacts would get immediate notification and start making enquiries (hopefully!)
Elaine communicated with a VHF Radio Cobra Marine MRHH325
Good Points: Handy to have this on the trip to add that level of security, Battery life seemed to be good, and the device was easy to use.
Negative Points: Coverage was intermittent, although I believe this can be the problem with any VHF radio.
Overall Review: This piece of safety kit is essential to have- and to listen to the communication at ports and harbours added a new perspective and a valuable insight to the coming and going of larger vessels. It also meant that weather forecasts were easy to receive and sometimes the banter with coastguards was good company.
To find out more about Elaine 'Shooter' Alexander's trip see www.canoearoundireland.com
Posted on July 5, 2011 @ 4:05 PM in
A mini revolution in kayaking has happened over the past few years, with the continued growth of Sit-On-Top Kayaks or SOTs. They were perhaps frowned upon initially by the traditional canoeing fraternity but no one can deny their success in allowing a whole new wave of people enjoying paddle sports.
To get to the bottom of this we caught up with Rodger Hamilton, Participation and Club Development Officer at the Canoe Association Northern Ireland (CANI).
CanoeNI.com – What exactly is a sit on top kayak?
A Sit on Top is a kayak that has no closed cockpit; you just sit on top of the hull where you will have a molded seat and footrest to get comfortable on.
CanoeNI.com - Why have they become so popular?
Like most good ideas they are simple and easy to use. Some people fear getting their legs trapped inside a conventional kayak but sit on tops are really stable, even if you do fall off you can just climb back on board again.
Watersports have traditionally been quite expensive but this has changed with sit on tops, they are relatively inexpensive with a starter kit costing around £300-£350 from several major retailers. They can easily be carried on a roof rack and their plastic structure makes them very durable.
CanoeNI.com - What are they best used for?
Their versatility is also their strength. People use them to play in the surf, short trips along flat water rivers, and because they are so stable they have become really popular with keen fisherman.
CanoeNI.com - What are the top five tips to paddling on safely?
Even though the boats are very forgiving it is still important that you master the basic skills and safety procedures.
- Let people know your route plan for your paddle trip
- Paddle in a groups of 3
- Be able to self rescue
- Be able to do an assisted rescue incase a group member is tired is struggling to get back onto his craft
- Carry appropriate safety equipment
The best way to ensure you are prepared is to sign up for a free CANI Sit on Top awareness day. The aim of the course is to raise awareness and provide you with basic skills, rescue techniques and knowledge that you need for paddling in different environments.
Upcoming CANI Sit on Top Awareness Courses
Saturday 2nd July – Location East Coast
Saturday 23rd July – Location North Coast
Saturday 6th August – Location North Coast
Don’t forget to check out CanoeNI.com’s Have a go section for more have a go days, courses, guided trips etc.
Posted on May 23, 2011 @ 5:16 PM in
CanoeNI.com give their thoughts on the recently published guide book Irish Canoe Classics .. Thirty Four Great Canoe & Kayak Trips.
The canoeing community (especially in Northern Ireland) is quite small so we had heard on the grape vine that Eddie Palmer and Tony Monaghan were out and about in Ireland researching and writing this book for Pesda Press. So as official developers and promoters of Northern Ireland’s Canoe Trails you can imagine how keen we were to get our hands on a copy to see how the trails measured up.
Pesda Press has previously published the highly rated ‘Scottish Canoe Classics’ and ‘Welsh Sea Kayaking’ and there is no doubt that this will be come a welcome addition to any avid canoeist’s coffee table or book shelf.
The authors admit that the book is ‘…a simple and practical guide…’ and ‘…is not a comprehensive guide to all waterways…’ We most definitely appreciate this challenge having produced waterproof trail guides to accompany our trails. It is real challenge to provide detail in print format because fundamentally details change on a regular basis – hence we have focused on providing detail in a web format.
Its simplicity is the guide’s strength. Our course Eddie & Tony have spent countless hours compiling the information but the real skill is how it has been put together to make the information timeless so the guide book will have a good shelf life (well for the next five years or so anyway.)
There is enough information to inspire you to get out and make the next step; great overview maps, shuttle info, hazards, portages and route descriptions. The paperback book is not designed to bring out of the water with you but it is designed to get you out of the house and explore new places.
We are delighted with the coverage of Northern Ireland’s Canoe Trails. Each of the canoe trails – Lough Erne, Lough Neagh, River Blackwater, Lower Bann and Strangford Lough are portrayed with great accuracy. They also provide some welcome additions to the Lough Erne Canoe Trail with trips along the River Erne from Lough Gowna to Belturbet and along the Woodford River from Leitrim to Crom.
All in all a great inspirational book, long overdue in Ireland – it knows exactly what it is trying to be and performs the function perfectly. We hope you enjoy many long days on the water as a result this book.
The book can be purchased from Pesda Press or Cordee Books
Posted on May 13, 2011 @ 4:28 PM in
It seems like kayak circumnavigators of Ireland are just like buses, you wait for ages for one and then two turn up!
Following our recent coverage of Elaine ‘Shooter’ Alexander’s challenge to become the first Northern Irish woman to circumnavigate Ireland by kayak we have come across another pair trying to break the Irish kayaking circumnavigation record.
Whilst Elaine has captured the attention of the local media, Jeff Allen and Harry Whelan have some what slipped under the radar. Perhaps this is because of the pace they are moving at.
The duo are trying to break the long standing 33-day circumnavigation record set in 1990 by Mick O’Meara, Dermot Blount, Brian Fanning and Karl Heery.
Currently they are en route to Dublin having made short work of Northern Ireland’s coastline paddling from Portrush to Carlingford in about 5 days. Today marks day 22 so with 11 more days to go they look odds on to break the record – but with a lot of water to cover I don’t think anybody will be placing bets just yet.
You can follow Elaine on www.canoearoundireland.com and Jeff & Harry on http://roundireland2011.blogspot.com/