Monday, 19 October 2009

Barry Dock 07/09/09

I Went for a quite late summer afternoon paddle in Barry
Dock to see the Tall Ship 'Stavros S Niarchos' up close.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Tusker Rock 14/10/09

Almost at Tusker Rock

I left Newton Point Bay two hours after low tide hoping to
catch Tusker Rock before it disappeared under the waves.
The Rocks are usually only dry two hours before and after
low tide. I was a little late setting off but with only a half
hour paddle out I made it before they disappeared. This
bay is great as a practice area as it's very sheltered from
the wind. I was lucky enough to spot two dolphins on my
way out.

There were a lot of breaking waves around the rock but
I managed to land on the north east side.


Tusker Rock with Ogmore by Sea in distance

Looking out to Tusker Buoy

I was hoping to paddle out to the Buoy but there were a
lot of breaking waves and I didn't fancy chancing it on my
first paddle.

The remains of the Ship Wreck

I then headed across to Ogmore By Sea and along the
cliffs to Dunraven Bay.

The wind forecast was force 1/2. There was a fair size swell
which created a lot of surf along Dunraven Bay where I was
hoping to land.

I made my way around Witches Point and landed at the next

After a quick bite to eat I made my way back against the
flow of the tide back to the car. The tide isn't extremely
strong along this part of the coast but it was a bit of a struggle
going past Ogmore by Sea, it felt like I was paddling
for ages and not going anywhere.

Only a short trip but was an experience for my first paddle
out to sea.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Venture Easky 15 LV

I am by no means an expert on boat handling and design.  I have only ever truly paddled one boat so I can not really compare it with other boats.  I am fairly new to kayaking so can only write about my experiences I have had with this boat, which I hope will be of help to others new to the world of sea kayaking.

This is my Easky 15 LV by Venture Kayaks.  It has been described by the makers as 'a touring kayak that thinks it's a sea kayak'.  Back in September 2009 I was looking for a boat to take out on the sea for day paddles along my local coastline, nothing to serious.  The more I read about sea kayaking the more I grew to understand boat design etc.  With a low budget and a lot of kit to get I whittled it down to three boats that would suite my needs.  These were the Dagger Blackwater 14, Perception Carolina 14 and of course the Easky 15 all around the £600 mark.  All three boats are classed as 'touring boats' which essentially is a cheap version of a sea kayak which is aimed more at gentler paddling.

Testing the Dagger Blackwater

I have the low volume version because I'm small built.  The outfitting in this boat is good with a comfy seat and high backrest.  The backrest is adjustable and has a flip top to enable a higher back support for more relaxed paddling position.  I have never used this flip top design as you can not wear a spray deck at the same time.  There are bow and stern bulkheads with decent size hatches for multi day paddles.  The footrests are adjustable as well as knee supports.  The deck lines on the front are well positioned but I have added additional lines to the stern. The is a hollow on top of the deck for a day hatch to be added, basically a plastic version of a deck bag with a rubber hatch like cover.  Unfortunately this does not come with the boat and is an additional £30.  My boat is fitted with a drop down skeg but there is an option for a rudder or neither.  The boat comes in a range of colours but I opted for 'lava red'.  There is also the availability to fit two flush mounted fishing rod holders to the rear of the seat.


This boat tracks really well, in fact a bit to well.  I rarely use the full length of the skeg, only letting it out a touch in very strong winds or for a bit of support.  As a compromise for its good tracking however the boat does not turn easily.  To be honest I didn't really notice until I tried out a few decent sea kayaks.  A good edge and a sweep stroke with see you turn well however after comparing it to P&H Scorpio I realise how hard it was.  The boat is really stable and is great for the beginner.  Trying to edge the boat is a little tricky and the secondary stability is not so good.  In the surf the bow tends to dive unlike some of the other boats in the same class.  So much so that even launching off a beach with a slight slope causes an unstable entry.  Poor turning, secondary stability and the tendency to dive make it a struggle in rough conditions.  I find it an easy boat to roll and have seen people who have never been in a long boat before roll it with ease.  Being the longer than the other two boats it is quite fast.  I can easily keep up an average speed of 3-4 knots without tidal assistance, which is about average for a sea boat.  I have knocked this boat around a bit and it seems tough enough.  I tested the Dagger Blackwater side by side with this boat and felt the Easky to be more responsive.  The Blackwater does provide a little more stability though if that's what your looking for.

It has sounded like all I have done is put this boat down but it is easy to criticise when you compare it to a £2,000 sea boat.  This boat is perfect for the beginner in calm sheltered conditions.  It is a little tricky in big water, however I have paddled this boat in all sorts of sea states and still come out the other end, just.  When I look back on where this boat has taken me over the past 15 month I'm quite proud of it.  With my experience growing and aspirations to paddle longer trips and bigger waters I am looking to spend a lot more and buy a top of the range sea boat.  I find that I want to improve my paddling in rougher conditions but feel a little held back with this boat.  If all you want to do is go out in calm weather, take it for day trips or long weekends touring the coast then this boat is all you need.  If you intend to get serious with your paddling then I suggest stretching your budget a little further.  There are some really nice sea boats around the £900 mark, and a little more again can get a top of the range plastic boat around £1200.

I have tested most of the P&H and Valley range of glass and plastic sea boats, which in turn has spoiled me and made me realise the performance of a top quality boat.  Hopefully I will have a new boat within the next 12 months but I still intend to keep this boat knocking about. 

10/10 for the beginner but for further aspirations spend a bit more.

Used since September 2009.  Date 11 January 2010.

Camera & Equipment

12th January 2010

Kayaking and photography go hand in hand, as does most activities which allow you to explore the natural world.  Taking pictures when I go kayaking for me is part of the experience, and usually I can't wait to get home and play about with them.  There are a few problems taking pictures for a boat but the main one is salt water.  I used a non water-proof camera for ages.  It did the job but was hard preventing it from getting wet and inevitably started to deteriorate.  I decided to get this Olympus Tough 6020 before I went to Skye last September.  I was after something that was tough enough to withstand the weather and a few knocks and needed to be fully waterproof.
Olympus Tough 6020

At £200 minus a penny it wasn't the cheapest camera but not the most expensive either.  I was very pleased with the results and couldn't put it down.  As it's name suggests it is tough.  Waterproof down to 5m, shockproof against falls from 1.5m and freeze proof down to -10*c, the metal bodywork should also protect it from anything you subject it to.  It is apparently dust proof which should keep the sand out.  The panel that protects the SD card, battery and sockets can be locked with a sliding button to minimise the chance of accidentally opening it in the water. 

The camera shoots high resolution 14 mega pixel images and can take high definition 720p video.  I was really surprised the clearness and quality of the pictures.  I used to have to upload my pictures and make the necessary adjustments.  Now I just upload them straight to the blog. The large 2.7" LCD anti glare screen on the back is perfect for viewing pictures in bright light or when it's wet.  The camera lens is positioned in the top right hand corner, which frustratingly is where your finger lays when taking a picture.

There are plenty of useful features and modes to play about with, the one's I tend to use most are night, sunset and panoramic modes (seen bellow).  The final outcome is a bit tricky to get perfect as you usually drift and the water is continually changing.
There is a 5x optical zoom or 18x digital when combined with optical.  This isn't bad but as with most cameras you don't get the quality when the zoom is maxed out.  It is great for getting that little bit closer with your shots as long as you don't over do it.  For close up wildlife shots you best get an SLR with a very expensive lens.  I have never had a problem with focusing, even in low light or on the move.  There is a night mode which slows the shutter speed etc but requires a tripod to get best effects. 
The on/off button is small and a bit difficult to turn on with gloves but on the plus side difficult to accidentally turn on/ff.  It is simple to use just aim and shoot.  There is a 2GB internal storage on this camera so if you do use up the memory on your SD card there is no excuse.  I found I can easily use up the battery in one weekend but I use the camera almost constantly and can't help having a sneaky preview before I get home.

Only one negative for me is that although you can manually adjust a lot of functions I have yet to find a way of manually adjusting shutter speed.  The night mode does this automatically but doesn't really work in light conditions.  A negative that I have seen in many reviews online is the slow turning on speed.  This introduction clip can easily be fixed however and turned off to allow for instant picture taken when you turn it on.  On that note a quick tip, when I plan on taking a photo I press the on button just before I take it out of my pocket, that way by the time I get it out an aim it's ready to go. 
On the whole if you want good quality pictures and video from you waterproof camera I highly recommend this.
Joby Gorilapod

I loved this little gadget until two of the legs dropped off.  The idea is this mini tripod has three legs which flex around almost anything, essentially holding on.  I usually wrap it around my deck lines and clip my camera in and press record when I go through the rough stuff.  
Camera, Gorilapod and Kill Cord

I also bought this before I went to Skye in September last year and by December lost two of the legs.  The legs are made up of a series of balls and cups which pop together.  I have snapped out the broken balls and popped in the next one in the link.  It has fixed it for now but is now obviously a little shorter.  I have looked on the net and it seems this is a common problem, although Joby do seem to replace them if you can be bothered to contact them and send it back.  This little gizmo will cost you around £20 depending where you buy it but I would spend my money one of these in the future - Fat Gecko

Kill Cord and Karabiners

I have Richard to thank for this little tip.  This Outboard Kill Cord can be found at any marine chandler.  They are advertised online at £6.50-7 but I'm sure I only paid about £3.  The idea is clip one end to your buoyancy aid or deck lines and the other to your expensive equipment knowing that if you drop it overboard it will be safely attached to the other end.  I have one for my camera and it is the perfect length, and stretches too.  You get a few adapters with it which ain't any use.  Try to get one with a plastic clip at one end for attaching to your buoyancy aid.  For the other end I bought a pack of small karabiners.  You can get these pretty cheap from almost anywhere.  I bought a pack of three assorted sizes from Cotsworld for £5.