South West Kayak meeting

Mark Rainsley organised a weekend sea kayak meeting, based at East Prawle. There was a clutch of experienced tour leaders, which allowed the rest of us to dare go where we would not care to venture alone. I cannot be alone in holding back from joining informal paddle groups, wondering if I can keep up, or even keep upright. Upright I can certainly do, as a later picture demonstrates.

Here is Mark, with his head in the cockpit:

mark at barbecue

We had hazy sunshine most of the time, with a bit of rain and a steady south east wind, which raised a moderate swell. We paddled in groups of about eight and kept mostly within conversation distance.

kayaks at start point

The notorious tide race at Start Point was relatively benign, but still gave some scary moments.

start point light

Towards the end of the day people get a bit complacent and spread out. Note the two paddle tips sticking up on the right side of the picture below (click to enlarge).

At the end of the voyage, poor judgment of the wave sequence brought me onto the beach in a spectacular crash:

crash landing

Photo by Mark Rainsley

Other people were more skillful at landing. I land backwards because otherwise the skeg gets jammed with sand and pebbles, and I can hop out of the boat quicker when it’s tilted forward on the beach. But maybe it’s better to live with a jammed skeg and practice hopping out from a backward lean.

surf landing

I had another wet exit the next day, caught by a torrent of foam while fumbling with the camera to snap someone else being rescued in turbulent water among the rocks east of Salcombe. Then my pump swallowed a loop of my tow line. I landed to empty the boat on a beach with dumping surf. A kind lady on the beach helped me get straightened out to meet the surf head on, then herself got caught in the breakers. Fortunately, the water is warm now – around September 4th is every year the warmest day, under water, on the south coast of England.

The evening entertainment was a barbecue, followed by lectures on interesting/scary/odd places to visit by kayak. There were about 80 paddlers gathered together – the most I have ever seen in one place. The Pigs Nose Inn and adjacent meeting hall is a quirky place and worth a visit by land adventurers trudging the south west coast path, which is superb hereabouts.


The final picture is the melancholy remains of Hallsands, laid in ruins by a great storm in 1917.


It was a wonderful weekend. Flirting with rough water with able companions reinforced my conviction of the hazard of paddling alone. Mark says to only come again if one has made no friends this time, but eighty people is too many to befriend in two days. Only facebook would make that possible. I recommend these meetings even to people who swap email addresses with a write-underwater pencil while bouncing in the surf.

Thanks also to P&H Kayaks, who brought a trailer full of demo kayaks. I tried the Delphin, a hybrid surf, rock hopping and sea kayak. It is very maneuverable and stable, and rather ugly to my eye. I await the promised low volume version but am very happy with my Scorpio LV, seen in aerial view above, except for the skeg…

tim P