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Irish Sea Kayaking Association

No. 51

Earrach 2012

Weather RNLI Kayak Rescue Statistics- Alaska- Weather Models-Interpreting the Atlantic Chart- Wing Blades- Paul Caffyn- Book Review-Symposium 2011- Tay Descent- Incident Reporting Template- Upper Level Charts - Offshore Winds- Gusts and the Sea Kayaker


Editorial Hi folks. Welcome to a new edition of Treasna na dTonnta. Late as usual but hopefully a good one. Probably our most important article is a list of RNLI statistics for kayak/ canoe related rescues in Ireland. Maintaining such statistics has been recent practice in the UK but this is the first time we have facts and figures for Ireland. It makes for some interesting reading.Thank you to Kevin Rahill of the RNLI for collating the information at our request. Unfortunately, I did not get any offers on the weather theme so I did a bit of a solo run and produced several articles of increasing complexity for you. We have some great write ups on the ISKA Symposium by Martin Mad Dog Duffy and the East Coaster’s trip to Alaska by Sennan O’Boyle. We have a weather article by Paul Caffyn who also offered us his book review of Jasper Winns Long Paddle. I paddled the Tay Descent in Novemeber so this gets a write up. I was asked a few questions about wing blades recently so the basics there are also written up.

Greetings also from a rainy Sydney where I am based for the next two years with work. Thanks to the ISKA committee for giving me the oppertunity to continue to edit TnadT during this sabbatical. Conor Murray has thankfully assumed the responsibilities of printing and distributing the magazine. The TnadT website ‘experienced some technical difficulties’ recently but is now back up and running, if in a less aesthetic format. Hopefully this will be repaired in the not too distant future. My sea kayak is yet to arrive over here so I have been out in a surf-ski of late. Certainly an articles worth of experience involved there. This issue is a little editor heavy for my liking but needs must keep the articles and photographs coming. As an added incentive, remember that if you submit two articles to TnadT in a year, you get your next year’s ISKA membership for free! Next issue in themed “Navigation.” Tadhg



A Word from the Chair I would like to wish all our members a happy and prosperous New Year. I would like to thank all those who helped to keep ISKA on track. A special thanks to Tadhg our editor for the fine production of Tna D. Mary Butler thanks again for organising the symposium. Thanks to all those who led and helped to lead on organised trips. ISKA is a growing organisation and the only way it works as good as it does is by the good will of all who help. You don’t need to the greatest paddler to be a great volunteer .If everyone gives a little we all get a lot. Tadhg is always looking for articles for TnaD and these don’t have to be records set, or trips of epic proportions. Any type of article that may appeal or be help to our membership is welcome. As-

sistance is often needed to help on trips. Dont be frightened to offer or make yourself available to a trip leader. You can never have enough help. The payback is you gain valuable experience and learn a lot of practical stuff. For those aspiring to level 4 and 5 it is a great chance to get hands on experience. Happy and safe paddling for 2012 and I hope the weather is kinder to us this year. They haven’t taxed seakayaking YET Martin



Kayaking Incidents in Ireland 2010 and 2011 Causes and Lessons Learnt

Lifeboat launches From January 2010 to November 2011, there were 76 launches of RNLI lifeboats to kayakers in Ireland. The number of people assisted amounted to 82, of which 23 were categorised as “lives saved�. In other words, if the lifeboat was not called out, those people would not be expected to survive. Eight cases resulted in self rescue by the time the lifeboat arrived, underlining the importance of experience and training.

by Kevin Rahill Divisional Sea Safety Manager / Ireland, RNLI. A growing activity Sea kayaking is a growing sport in Ireland, with many more people taking to the water in kayaks and sit-on-tops. It is a sport that is affordable and easy to get involved in. Many of those taking part in the sport are experienced, but with such an increase at the starter end of the scale, it is not surprising that accidents do occur.

Not surprisingly, most of the call outs arise during the holiday periods, namely April (Easter), May, June, July and August (Summer) and October (half term). This would correspond with expected increased participation during those periods.

Lessons Learnt There are six key points that can be taken out of the above summary of incidents over the past two years as follows:


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Wear a suitable buoyancy aid or lifejacket when kayaking. A properly fitted and maintained lifejacket or buoyancy aid will greatly increase a person’s chances of survival if they end up in the water. In all cases where lifejackets or buoyancy aids were worn, and a casualty ends up in the water, their chances of survival are greatly increased. When one becomes cold, it is much harder to stay afloat without one. Check the weather and tides before departing. About half of the incidents occurred in rough seas and strong winds, including near and strong gale winds. It is important to note that a large number of incidents occur in fine weather. It is important to check the weather before going afloat, and stay within the person’s and craft’s capabilities. Of equal importance is

knowledge of the tidal conditions on the day. Wind against tide can cause difficulties. In the event of a capsize, or being separated from the kayak, both kayak and kayaker will be borne along with the tide. Carry a reliable means of raising the alarm. The best and most reliable means of raising the alarm is by marine VHF. VHF was used in 11 cases, again indicating a good level of knowledge and equipment. The advantages of VHF

over other means of raising the alarm is that they are designed for a marine environment; hand held VHFs have a reasonable battery life, anyone in range knows you are in difficulty and can assist if able to do so. You can talk to the Coast Guard and the lifeboat or helicopter and they can all talk to you. Perhaps the greatest advantage is that a lifeboat can use radio direction finding equipment to get a bearing on the signal, thus reducing the search area considerably. Good waterproof hand held sets are available on the market. Remember that hand held VHF sets should be fully charged before use. In one incident an EPIRB was activated, indicating that this person was probably experienced and certainly well equipped

In a further eight cases, mobile phones were successfully used as the initial means of raising the alarm. While a mobile phone may be useful, it is not designed as a means of communication at sea and should not be relied upon as the sole means of raising the alarm. There is not always network coverage at sea, the battery life may be limited, especially if the Coast Guard want to keep the line open and one is only speaking to one person and relying on messages to be passed accurately.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Kayakers should consider carrying distress flares as a means of raising the alarm or perhaps more importantly as a supplementary way of pinpointing your location if used in conjunction with a marine VHF set. Tell someone where you are going. It is important to tell someone where you are going and what time you intend to return. They should also know what allowance to make if overdue, when to contact the Coast Guard and what information to give. Check your equipment. Ensure that all equipment is in working order. Do a radio check before departure. If possible, carry a spare paddle. In addition, keep a check on your energy levels. As the paddler, you’re the only means of propulsion! Get proper training. Training will not only give you the skills to stay out of trouble, or to deal with a problem when it arises, but it will also enable you to get the most out of the sport. Training is available not only to learn kayaking, but other courses such as the Short Range Certificate, which teaches about using VHF, and is a legal requirement in order to use a VHF set. A sea survival course may also be useful as it deals with a lot more than just abandoning to a liferaft and has much to offer on techniques of survival without a liferaft.

Finally, help is always available. The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. Not only do we provide a lifeboat service that will assist and rescue those in danger, but we also provide help and advice before one goes to sea. To learn more about how to avoid the incidents that can spoil a fun day out on the water, visit the RNLI safety pages on the website

Simple Models of our Weather There are probably few locations in the world as fascinating as Ireland for weather observation. We lie in an area of the planet exposed to some quite powerful weather influences. This leads to some remarkable variations in our weather. There are few countries upon which has rained hailstones as large as golf balls and sand from the Sahara- in my lifetime. We can get the tail end of Central American Hurricanes and are bitten by polar blocking Highs. We're not large enough to generate our own weather systems nor are we warm or cold enough. We are very much exposed to the weather occurring outside of our island, the rest of the planet's weather. To begin to understand the world's weather patterns, we begin with a simple weather model.

Simple One Cell Model We can gain an understanding of how global air circulation works by this simple model. It is founded on the following simplifying assumptions: • The global reception of solar energy and loss of heat through radiation cause a temperature gradient of hotter air at the equator and colder air at the poles. In other words, the equator being closer to the sun and perpendicular to heat acquires more heat than the poles which are further away and angled obtusely to the sun.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION of about 14 kilometers (top of the troposphere again), and then begins flowing horizontally to the North and South Poles. The Coriolis force* causes a progressive deflection of this moving air in the upper atmosphere, and by about 30° of latitude this air in the upper atmosphere is flowing from completely from west to east creating the Subtropical Jet Stream, a fast flowing river of air circling the planet. This Subtropical jet stream causes the accumulation of air in the upper atmosphere. To relieve pressure, some of this air in the upper atmosphere sinks back to the surface creating the Subtropical High Pressure Zone, also at 30 degrees latitude. From this zone, the sunken surface air travels in two directions. A portion of the sunken air moves back toward the equator completing the circulation system known as the Hadley cell. But this surface air is again deflected by the Coriolis effect to create the Northeast Trades (N.Hemisphere) and Southeast Trades (S.Hemisphere). The other portion of the sunken surface air moves towards the poles Three Cell Model of Global Circulation and is also deflected by Coriolis force producing In this model, we acknowledge that the earth ro- the Westerlies. The remainder of the air that didn't sink at the Subtropical High Pressure zone also continues on its path northward. Once again, Coriolis force, as we move nearer to the poles, gradually deflects this wind to create to flow west to east forming a Polar jet stream at roughly 60° North and South. Air in the area tends to be rising mainly as a consequence of convergence- air coming from north ICTZ and south colliding and being squeezed upward to create areas of Low Pressure called Sub Polar Lows. This creates the circuit of the Ferrel Cell. Polar air, being the coldest on the planet where the air is densest is continuously sinking, then circulating southward creating the Polar High and the Polar Cell. On the Earth's surface near 60° North tates. That nice pattern of flow described in the and South latitude, the warmer subtropical one cell model is altered. We use the "Three Westerlies collide with denser cold air traveling cell model". from the poles. This collision results in the creIn the new model, the equator still reation of a vacillating border between the subpomains the warmest location on the Earth. Air in lar Lows and mid-latitude Highs. It is near this this area is the warmest on earth and so continborder at 53°-56° North that Ireland residesuously rises. This creates an area of low presthus these are the major weather systems that sure (denoted by the "L") which also draws air in from areas north and south. This warm rising most often cross our island. Again, the Three Cell model, though air area around the equator is called the Inhelpful remains too simple. Ireland obviously tertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). This warmed air rises to a maximum vertical altitude doesn't constantly experience warm Westerlies. • The Earth is not rotating in space. Based on these assumptions, air circulation on the Earth should approximate the patterns shown left. In this illustration, each hemisphere contains one three-dimensional circulation cell. At the equator, the sun-warmed air rises vertically by the processes of convection (warm air will rise as less dense) and convergence (squeezing up- think toothpaste tubes!). When the rising air reaches the top of the troposphere (inner atmosphere), it begins to flow horizontally to the poles. To replace it, air flows down from the poles to the equator along the earth's surface. At the poles, the air in the upper atmosphere cools and descends to the Earth's surface to complete the cycle of flow. If this Simple One Cell model were the case, Ireland would bear there brunt of persistent and freezing northern winds, and our western and northern seaboards would look very different. Fortunately, the next more accurate model is kinder to Ireland.



These differences are caused by four main factors. First, the Earth's surface is not composed of uniform materials. The two surface materials that dominate are water and land. These two materials behave differently in terms of heating and cooling causing these pressure observations to be far less uniform than the model suggests. The ocean tends to moderate the warmth of mid latitude Highs and moisten them, as it also does with sub polar Lows which have travelled across the North Atlantic after formation. The second factor is the the North Atlantic Current, a branch of the Gulf Stream. This current of warm water originates from the Caribbean, and runs North Easterly across the Atlantic past Ireland and onward to Scotland and Norway. We don't know how exactly this warm current so influences Ireland's weather. The notion of Ireland being warm because we're in a warm bath seems overly simplistic particular when discussing air temps/movements. But the Gulf Stream does appear capable of two things; further stabilizing and moistening air masses as they come up from the Caribbean in parallel with the North Atlantic current and combatting some of the colder extremes of the Polar air masses as the move south toward Ireland. While the mechanism may not be fully understood, circumstantial evidence around the globe does show that sea temperatures do have significant influence on climate. The third factor influencing actual circulation patterns is elevation. Elevation tends to cause pressure centers to become intensified when altitude is increased. This is especially true of high pressure systems.

A fourth factor is the tilt of the earths axis which causes our seasons. In our summer, the shift in axis cause the ICTZ to lie north of the equator while the opposite occurs in winter. *The Coriolis effect is an observation rather than a phenomena or force. The earth obviously spins on an axis. The earths atmosphere does too, but it isn't fixed to the earth. It lags behind. Thus if you drop a stone from a height, it will (but probably imperceptibly) actually veer eastward from the vertical plumb line below the point of release. Projectiles veer right in the northern hemisphere (and left in the southern) from the direction in which they are shot. The air through which these objects are traveling simply isn't moving in parallel with the earth beneath them.

Incident Report Template This template was requested by sea kayakers involved in an incident at sea. It has been reviewed by the ISKA committee. This template is a guide so adjust/ use as you see fit. A copy will remain in the online TnadT version. Basically who, what , where, why , when, how format. Can be anonymous i.e. Kayaker 1, Kayaker 2 etc. or you can use initials. Reports can be done collaboratively or as individual efforts. State which.



sick" , If you actually saw kayaker 3 getting seasick, then you can say it.

Pre trip plan; peer paddle/ led paddle? When was it organized?; - months before or the night before; consider later if this contributed pressure? Date Time Skill levels of persons involved i.e. experience/ ICU/BCU courses etc. Equipment standard; i.e. VHFs, Flares, EPIRBS, Clothing etc. Location departure/ arrival Try to attach a map- Google Satellite maps seems to work well and software is available online that allows you to take photo of google maps e.g. screen grab Plan of trip; i.e. route, get outs, turnarounds, flexibility/plan B etc, experience of the area itself Anticipated difficulties with the trip (if any) e.g. wind against tide? exposed crossing? lack of landings? Were you and other members comfortable with the plan? Did it sit right with everybody? Any bad vibes? Did any unhappy parties comment on the plan? If not, any ideas why not? TR filed with Coast Guard/ family etc.? Obviously all kayakers can't call in all TRs all the time so why did you or why did you not choose to call in one. Purpose of trip i.e. sightseeing, training run, rough weather for practice/ experience Forecasted wind source? i.e. Met Eireann/ Theyr/ Windguru/ Atlantic pressure charts etc.? Actual/observed weather were they consistent? forecast accurate? local phenomena to contribute? Tidal flow- anticipated and observed? Swell issues - anticipated and observed? Other vessels on the water? Try then to tell the story of how events unfolded in a chronological order. It can be a in a narrative/story format. Please comment on areas where you feel your observations were limited or uncertain and where they were clear and certain. e.g. if you heard later from a third party that someone at the back of the group got seasick ten minutes ago; write this rather than " kayaker 3 was sea

Analysis Most serious accidents/ incidents result from not one catastrophic event but several small difficulties/omissions leading ultimately to the negative outcome. Try to examine where and when these occurred. Document chronologically rather than in terms of seriousness. But please comment on how serious/ significant you perceived each factor to be. Difficulty 1 Difficulty 2 Difficulty 3 etc‌ If you lived, you did something right. In fact, you probably did a lot of things right. Analyse what exactly you and the party did right. You can state the obvious e.g. I was glad I did that level three course five years ago because... etc. Success 1 Success 2 Success 3 etc. Collateral histories Any other commentaries made by involved parties- try to include their commentaries verbatim. If you disagree, include the details of that difference also. Please include any comments from the Rescue Services. Include the comments they made at the time and any they made at a later stage. Consider alternative courses of action While you may feel the need to justify the course of action that was taken, try to give the alternatives you faced some thought. If you choose Path X, what was Plan Y and where do you think it would have taken you. Lessons for the broader sea kayaking community (and for the Emergency Services). Again don't be afraid to reiterate and state the obvious. Also try to break down into detailed lessons. Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3 These reports will be printed in Treasna na dTonnta paper magazine. They may appear on the Treansa na dTonnta website but comments will be disabled. They are not intended for publi-


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION cation by the ISKA committee to the ISKA bulletin board. Persons involved can of course, publish the Incident report to the Bulletin Board themselves if they wish to engage other members in discussion.

How Lows form Remember from the previous article on the Three Cell Model that Ireland lies close to that fluctuant border between northly polar air and the warm Westerlies between 52 and 54 degrees north. This border is called the Polar Front. It is along this border that those Lows (aka Low Pressure Systems/ Cyclones/Depressions) form. So what causes these two bordering air masses to spin into those miserable gyres that so pester our little island? What causes them to begin to eddy and circle each other? The answer again is the Coriolis effectthat same phenomena that turns Southerly winds into Westerly Jetstreams and also causes your bath to empty anti- clockwise.

A weather chart depiction of such a static border would be as below. Triangles mean the border of cold air mass, semi-circles; warm air. The synoptic chart A below shows a kink in the polar front. A whole variety of factors could cause such a kink, but air pressure differences, sea temperature, land mass and jet stream influences are some of the factors. Coriolis effect causes the two masses (warm air behind the red semi-circles and cold behind the blue triangles) to begin circulate around this kink (anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere, clockwise in the southern hemisphere) and forms a closed circulation centre (C). To the east of the centre, warm air flows northwards, marking the Warm Front. To the west, cold air flows southeastwards, marking the Cold Front, as in (B). The cold front moves southeastwards and starts to catch up with the slower-moving warm front. Eventually it catches and starts to undercut under the warm front, lifting it off the surface. This process is called Occlusion, and marks the peak stage of the Low’s life, (C). After occlusion has started, the pressure usually stops falling, and the Low will slow down i.e. stop moving east. It will fill and disappear. An average Low has a lifetime of around 5 days. It will have done its primary job of dispersing the strong temperature gradient along the polar front (D). As with all things in weather, things don’t always go as smoothly as this in reality, but you now have a general idea of how one of our more common visitors works.

It is worth pointing out at this juncture that the amount of deflection the air makes due to the Coriolis effect is directly related to both the speed at which the air is moving and its latitude. Slowly blowing winds will be deflected only a small amount, while stronger winds will be deflected more. Likewise, winds blowing closer to the poles will be deflected more than winds at the same speed closer to the equator. The Coriolis force is zero right at the equator.

Lows normally form along the Polar Front, the boundary between warm, humid tropical airmases from the south and cold, dry polar airmasses from the north.

These Lows can be depressing, and lead to seemingly endless spells of unsettled weather, like in the recent wet summers, which were due to the jetstream (more on than later) taking up a more southerly position than normal. They can give abundant rainfall, as in November 2009, or strong winds, as in early November 2010, but they are also the reason why we live in an Emerald Isle and do not suffer from the serious droughts or freezes of other countries. A useful off-the-cuff tool for situating your Low is to use Buy Ballot's Law; In the northern hemisphere, with the wind against your back, the Low is to your left.



Worth noting is that waves often move faster than the weather systems that generate them- especially large waves with a long period. So big ocean rollers may be a portend of heavy weather to come. And that swell may also last a day or two after the weather system has passed.

ISKA Symposium 2011 by Martin (Mad Dog) Duffy

In writing about the symposium I suppose I should start with a little of my own background, which is mainly river kayaking – but please don’t hold that against me! I have been river paddling for about 14 years and am a level

4 Instructor as well as a level 5 paddler, but at the time of the symposium I had only been paddling on the sea for a few months. With this in mind I had planned for myself and my wife Marleen to attend the symposium – but I have to admit there was a certain level of trepidation involved as I knew nobody else who was attending, and with such little experience on the sea I was not sure if I would be “out of my depth” so to speak. Having said that I had already done my level 4 proficiency training with Des Keaney and level 3 instructor training with Ali Donald so I was hoping I wouldn’t be too much like a fish out of water – no more puns I promise! It would be hard to overstate how impressed I was with my introduction to sea kayaking symposiums. In the run up to it I had been in touch with Mary Butler, the weekend’s main organiser many times with changes to accommodation etc, and on every occasion she had been more than helpful and a pleasure to deal with, so it was a good start.



On arrival at the hotel I was pleasantly surprised with the standard of the accommodation – far better quality than river paddlers’ use I can tell you! We were met by Mary and Andy Wilson and some others and were immediately made feel welcome and part of the group, which was great to help settle into the whole thing.

ally helpful too. Over the course of the day I picked up loads of useful hints and tips, and Marleen had found the following sea session with Kevin O Calaghan (Geo) immensely useful and it really boosted her confidence, in what were the biggest seas she had paddled to date. Dinner that night was a great chance to hear more stories about sea kayaking trips, and was followed by a great talk by Jasper Wynn – although I thought we were going to be there all night after he had only gone 100 miles after an hour! He sped up though and it was a very interesting talk.

Saturday morning the conditions were not great –a bit too breezy and wavy for all of the original plans to go ahead but the organisers handled the situation with aplomb and the plan was soon changed and things organised. Travelling to the water on the bus I have to again say that everyone was very friendly, chatting away about different experiences, trips etc which helped make the day very enjoyable. I went on the trip around Achilbeg with Nigel Dennis while Marleen did a workshop on following seas. In my opinion the variety of workshops on offer was absolutely top class, and I would have attended every one of them if possible. Not being able to split myself into 6 parts and do them all was really the only downside to the whole weekend.

Sunday was great too with Marleen working on basic skills and me doing some advanced navigation with Geo. Overall as you have no doubt guessed by now I was very impressed with the symposium. The instructors were professional and friendly, the accommodation great and the organisation first class. My expectations were exceeded by a long long way – not an easy thing to do – and even though it was my first symposium it certainly won’t be my last. Maybe I will see you there next year !

After lunch then we again went with Nigel – not intimidating at all being out with one of the best known sea kayakers around – honestly – and did some work on scenarios which were re ISSUE 51


Interpreting the Atlantic Surface Chart Your main source of the Atlantic Chart is the UK Hydrological Office- UKHO- found directly from them or via, wettercentral or from a huge variety of weather sources. The weather observation firmament has always had a remarkable ethos of sharing weather synoptic information across the globe- even during the worst years of the Cold War. There tends not to much variance produced in the synoptic chartshow the weather on the ground is deduced and how further weather is forecast is where most differences begin. Above is a sample Atlantic Chart; we will work from it and glean all possible information we can. The basic information is given at the top left. UTC is GMT, our time. 00 is just after midnight on the morning of Thursday the 11th of January 2007. Each daily analysis is based on

data gathered at 6 hourly intervals, and at 00, 06, 12 and 18 hours with forecasts to 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 hours being released twice a day, forecasts for 84 hours once a day in the late morning, and for 96 and 120 hours once every day in the late evening. Below the date is the Geostrophic scale which helps us calculate windspeed- more on that later. If the chart says Surface Analysis, MSLP (mean sea level pressure) or nothing, its the surface chart. Charts of higher up the atmosphere are indicated by their altitude eg 250kPA or 500kPA. Let's start with Ireland. We're slap bang in the middle, easy to find. At the furthest left of the chart is the the north east coast of the US and Canada- where many of those Lows begin. You can see a large portion of Greenland and all of Iceland as we move west to east. Lines of longitude and latitude are shown. Isobars- the thin wavy black lines, join the areas of equal pressure. The cold and warm fronts are distinguished by dark heavy black lines upon which are placed triangles and semi circles respectively. Barometric pressure is indicated beside Lows and Highs. Generally Highs will be in the 1000+ region while Lows will be in the 900+ region. Our lowest Lows in our region would be in


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION the 915-920s. In the chart above we can see a Low of 951 kPa is situated just south of Iceland and is dominating Irish weather. In the northern hemisphere, winds traveling anti-clockwise roughly along the path of the isobars. The winds from this Low are striking our western seaboard.

mately half that speed. The warm front is slowly crossing Dundalk- Waterford while the cold front currently lying across Sligo Galway chases it across the country. The warm front will be overtaking

Low Pressure Systems travel from west to east in Atlantic Charts. They are not static entities, as they travel, they expend energy and fill becoming less forceful.They travel for as long as they contain separate warm and cold fronts. When these fronts occlude they generally cease their west to east movement, fill completely and dissipate into the surrounding atmosphere. In the chart, you can see a Low in the west Atlantic with an only minimally occluded warm and cold fronts. We can say that it still has legs and forecast that it will most likely cross the Atlantic to affect Ireland. To repeat, when a Low has occluded or nearly completely occluded fronts, it will have lost much of its potency, will be about to dissolve away and won't be traveling in the west to east direction for much longer. Note the other Low centred south of Iceland. The two fronts associated with this Low have almost fully occluded i.e. caught up with each other and joined, from northern Scotland across to Iceland but remain disjointed across Ireland. As the occlusion continues to grow in length, the Low diminishes in intensity and the frontal movement slows down.

cooler air. Being warmer, it is lighter so it tends to ride up over the preexisting cooler air and push it out of the way. In reality however, a warm front never really "pushes" the cold air out of the way. Instead the warm front's movement depends on how fast the previous cold air is retreating. When warm, lighter air clashes with cold, heavier air, the warm air almost always rises up and over the cold air at the surface.This creates some distinctive cloud types which can be used by kayakers to spot the advance of a warm front- cirrus followed by altostratus followed by nimbostratus and often light rain (because the precipitation in these clouds is being driven up into cooler air)(and may cause your sundogs and 22째 Halos- see diagram above;

Cold fronts will travel faster than warm fronts. The reason cold fronts move faster than warm fronts is the cold air behind the cold front is heavier and more dense than the warm air behind the warm front. The heavier, denser, cold air can push the warmer lighter air ahead of the cold front out of the way much easier than the warm air can push the cold air ahead of the warm front. Cold fronts move at about the speed of the wind component perpendicular to the front. So if you want to know how long fast a cold front is moving, measure the windspeed (as described later) behind the front ie to the west of the front. Warm fronts move at approxi-

After the passage of the warm front, the weather can clear for a time. It will be followed by the cold front associated with the same system. Being cooler denser air, it tends to snowplough warmer air out of the way. Distinctive cloud types include cumulonimbus and cumulus with plenty of rain. Irelands weather is obviously wetter than this model suggests, primarily because most of our frontal systems will have travelled across the Atlantic on their way to us evaporating water all the way. The cold front carries with it the heavy bulky cumulonimbus and cumulus clouds, cool air and rain; typical winter west coast Irish weather.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Under some conditions, a line of showers and thunderstorms is formed from 50 to 300 miles ahead of, and roughly parallel to, a cold front. This is called a squall line. The weather associated with squall lines is often more severe than that associated with the subsequent cold front. After the passage of the squall line, the temperature, wind, and pressure usually revert to conditions similar to those present before the squall line approached. Occasionally, the showers and thunderstorms are scattered along the squall line so that some areas experience strong, gusty winds without any precipitation.

lifts that up also.The second type is called a warm occlusion; here, the air mass overtaking the warm front is not as cool as the cold air ahead of the warm front, so it rides over the colder air mass while lifting the warm air. No huge issues for sea kayakers here Rain and cloud type associated with fronts aren't of huge importance to a sea kayaker. Wind is. A frontal system be it cold, warm or occluded can often herald a rapid change in wind direction and strength. Below is an example of a cold front crossing Spanish point in Galway. The surface pressure chart shows the front out in the Atlantic at 00UTC of

How fast will a Low travel from the Atlantic to Ireland? This is where the real skill of weather forecasters comes in. There are some useful indicators- has it begun to occlude yet? If so, it will stall and fill. But if the two fronts are quite a distance apart, it has a great deal of potential energy remaining and will travel further. Another good indicator is simply to look back at the previous few days forecasts- how far has it moved in those days? If it is moving fast, you should be warned that it may continue to do so.

Don't presume that a Low will continue to fill as it travels across the Atlantic- it may only be freshly formed and may continue to deepen and strengthen. The famous Low that caused such carnage at the 1979 Fastnet may have formed near Newfoundland but it continued to deepen as it travelled rapidly to southern Ireland. Its rapid movement was one of the key issues in causing the disaster- it generated huge westerly swell when out in the Atlantic but when near Ireland caused winds from a S/SW direction which created the atrociously confused sea state. Occluded front weather- An occlusion occurs when the cold front catches the warm front. There are two types - a Cold Occlusion when the cold air behind the cold front wedges under the warmer air and lifts it up - but is also cooler that the cool air ahead of the warm front and

the 28th Oct 2008. Note the change in direction of the isobars prior to and immediately after the front.It is still in the Atlantic in the surface chart but will cross the western seaboard some three hours later. This passage is nicely illustrated in Windguru. Note the pattern of rapid change in wind direction in the afternoon of the 26th to the afternoon on the 27/11/2008; W F4 to SW F6 to NW F6 to W F5; again W to SW to NW to W This is accompanied by strengthening winds; F6, rainfall and by a general drop in temperatures 11째C at 00hrs to 6째C at 18hrs! (Often a cold front is preceeded by a small rise in temps due to the SW wind- you can also see this in Windguru). Not deducible from either prediction is that the passage of such this cold front would also be accompanied by a period of unstable gusty wind.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Rapid changes in wind also occur with warm

massive Arctic airmasses to form and slide

fronts, though not as severely as with cold fronts. Examine another detail taken from the large scale surface pressure chart taken from 12th January 2007 above, detail below and a later detail of the same front as it crosses Spanish Point 24 hours later. The angle of approach is slightly different from the cold front above but the principles of wind direction change remain the same.

south toward the equator. Once Arctic air slides south, it often clashes with warm, moist air from the tropics and gives birth to sometimes very intense storms. Arctic High pressure systems are also the strongest during winter due to the total darkness mentioned above.

Here the wind direction shifts initially from W to SW as the front approaches then from SSW to a more W flow with the passage of the warm front around midday on the 13th. The wind shifts with a warm front tend to be less dramatic and have much more of a southerly influence in them versus the cold front. Again illustrated by Windguru above. A really simple way of remembering this phenomena is to remember that "Isobars kink at fronts. The kink always points toward high pressure." Check the Atlantic Chart above to verify this. Note the kinks in the both over SE France and Switzerland in both of the above Atlantic Surface Pressure Charts. Low pressure systems are much more intense during winter. The reason for this is the temperature contrast between the equator and the poles is the greatest during winter since the polar regions are in total darkness.This allows

You will also notice that the High Pressure systems in all of the above charts have few if any fronts- either cold or warm. Frontal systems are more a phenomena associated with Lows. It is due to how they form- at that juncture between warm and cold air masses. High Pressure systems are mainly bodies of warm air possessing only the propensity to settle or disperse. They only become active in a lateral direction when interacting with a nearby Low. We can get a very rough estimate of wind speed and direction by the direction in which the isobars lie and how close the isobars occur. Simply put, wind blows parrellel to the isobars and the closer the isobars, the stronger that wind. This simplistic reading of the wind gives something known as the 'Geostrophic wind.' It is roughly correct...

But at different latitudes, the pressure difference between two isobars implies a different



wind strength. This is primarily another manifestation of the Coriolis phenomena. At our latitude a distance of a couple of millimeters between two isobars may mean 10 knots but at the equator, that may mean a 60 knot wind! We use that Geostrophic scale at the bottom of every Atlantic Synoptic Chart to interpret isobar distance taken from our Atlantic Surface Pressure Chart for our latitude to give a Geostrophic Wind reading. Here's how;

Use of Geostrophic Wind Scale At the point on your map where you want to determine the wind, measure the perpendicular distance between the isobars on either side of the point. You can use a pair of dividers or simply mark the distance on a piece of paper. Make note of the latitude at this point. You will need to know both to use the wind scale. Let’s suppose the distance between the two isobars is equal to line AB as shown above, and your point of latitude is 40°N. Starting at the left side of the wind scale, measure off the distance AB along the line for 40°. You can see point B falls on a curved line. Follow down this line to the base of the scale. Read the geostrophic wind (10 knots). This example used a latitude and

isobar spacing that fell directly on lines of the wind scale. If your point of latitude falls between lined increments on the scale, simply measure mid-way between the increments. When the measured spacing fails between speed curve lines, you must interpolate the wind speed.

Geostrophic Wind and Wind Shear But this Geostrophic wind will often differ from the actual observable wind direction from your kayak, known as the “True wind.” Some refer to it as “Actual wind.” True wind speed is always less than the Geostrophic wind due to friction against the earth or sea surface called Wind Shear. Wind Shear will also cause a change in direction in Geostrophic Wind. It will cause them to blow across isobars across isobars toward lower pressures. The angle of the cross-isobar flow varies based on the friction created by the underlying surface. The ocean’s surface causes across-isobar angle of 10° to 20° toward the centre of a Low and away from the centre of a High (and that’s as close as we ever get to perfect Geostrophic flow).


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION For plotting purposes, actual wind speeds over the ocean should reflect a cross-isobar angle of 20° from Geostrophic wind. For Lows, the simple way to remember the effect is that as the wind 'backs and slacks' i.e. the wind moves anticlockwise or left. Over land the friction is harder to define, based on the roughness of the surface, coupled with the temperature and stability of the air. A rough guide for land is to reduce the wind speed by around 30-40% with the wind backed by around 30 to 40 degrees. Again referring to the first Atlantic chart, the isobars would suggest a wind direction of due West at midnight of the 11th January 2007. In fact, the wind direction is SW ie it has 'backed and slacked.' See Windguru above for details;

Geostrophic Wind and Centripetal Force If an open crossing type of sea kayaker, you may have waited long days staring at High Pressure systems wondering why your Windguru readings were a higher than isobars around your big fat High Pressure system would suggest.

Unfortunately, there is one further modification that needs to be made to an interpretation from isobars; Centripetal force- that force pushing a rotating body toward the centre of its rotation- further affects the wind relative to its Geostrophic measure. It acts as a negative factor around a Low and is a positive around a High i.e. the wind speed increases with isobar curvature around a High and lessens around a Low. Again referring to our original Atlantic chart- look at the High situated west if Spain. Winds around this High are pretty much as expected in Windguru, usually 3-5 knots, judging from the distance between the isobars even when extrapolated onto the Geostrophic scale – apart from one area. Examine the Windguru reading from the Gulf of Lion in the Med, just SW of Marseille, the nearest sea measure available on Windguru. The winds here are significantly more than one would expect here given the isobar spacing. The primary reason for this is the curve of the High isobar to its North, just north of Toulouse- see detail from the chart above. A simple rule of thumb for centripetal force around an isobar curve near a High is to

add 20% to the wind. Just be mindful that if you are looking at a ridge (more on these later), there is very little wind to begin with. With regards to Lows, reduce the wind speed by 10-15% around a Low's sharp curve (up to 25% around a tightly curved isobars). But note that sharp curves in a isobars around Lows usually occur with fronts which in and of themselves will increase wind speed so the effect tends to be less noticeable. Both evidence of changes in wind direction and strength of Geostrophic wind due to Wind Shear and Centripetal Force is further observed on a Synoptic Chart produced for the same day by the American Ocean Prediction ISSUE 51

Centre which shows wind feathers. You can see multiple examples of cross isobar flow and increased wind speed near isobar curves around Highs.

ISOBARIC PATTERNS Frequently, reference is made in weather forecasting to ridges and troughs. These are


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION common isobaric 'patterns' and are pictured above. Ridge (or Wedge) A ridge is an elongated area of relatively high pressure. The wind circulation is essentially anticyclonic in the Northern Hemisphere. Ridges are usually areas of fair weather. They are also found between two distinct low-pressure areas. Trough A trough is an elongated area of relatively low pressure. The isobars of a trough may be either U-shaped or V-shaped. U-shaped troughs contain no fronts while V-shaped troughs are associated with fronts.


Here I am (stuck) in the middle…of Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska, with Margaret Farrell, Pauline Jordan, Eddie O’Shea, Ciaran Clissman and Alan Horner.

PWS is located in the heart of South Central Alaska. It’s the northern extent of the Gulf of Alaska and has some of the most spectacular coastlines and panoramas imaginable. Dotted by both big and small islands, the Sound is bordered by mountains, glaciers, fjords, rivers, lakes and rainforests. To the south Montague Island acts as a huge barrier to whatever the ISSUE 51

IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Pacific Ocean might throw northwards towards us. WEATHER Known for its rain, we came prepared for days and days of it. The Amazon gets 9 feet of rain in the rainy season: PWS gets 14 feet. Yes 14. It is a rain forest area. Luckily we only got couple of inches. Ciaran /Alan on a previous trip got 10 days of vertical rain out of 13. Thankfully, this time we lucked out with 10 sunny days and only 3 wet days. Temperatures (low 40’s to mid 60’s) were basically Irish summer ones! Not too hot for paddling, not too cold for camping! Expedition drysuits proved to be too hot and heavy most days. Locally sought advice warned of SUDDEN changes in the weather, within an hour seemingly. Not quite “weather bomb” intensity, but grenade size possibly. We had arranged our very own Jean Byrnes back home for daily updates via satellite phone! Thanks to Michelle, Barbara, Caroline and Bernie.

are rising or falling. Then figure it out. If you find no seaweed line then go get another beach! We heard a few stories of the sea invading tents in the middle of the night. Alan/Ciaran had this one well covered. Another factor is surf, but thankfully not on our trip, due to the calm conditions. Some of our campsites had LESS than 10ft of space between high tide and forest edge. If camping near calving tidewater glaciers, surges can be a huge problem. Passageways from the beach to open water can clog up overnight with ice so pay attention to wind and wave. We also kept an eye out for tidal flats with those heavily laden boats. The best tents are ones that can be TIED to the ground. That means guylines. We got neither big winds nor gales thankfully, but gravelly beaches and tent pegs with no guylines are for betting men only. Early in the trip I had to cut ‘foot and a half long’ wooden pegs. I’d forgotten that I had the shortest pegs possible with the tent from mountain marathon days. Ooops!

CAMPING The best and only sites were on NARROW gravel beaches. These were always backed by pretty dense forest. Due to the 7mt tide range in

WATER/FOOD The powered milk and eggs were excellent and of a very high standard. Seemingly people here, who live a long way out of town and who resupply every few weeks, rely heavily on pow-

the Sound, you camp as far up the beach as possible. Look for the seaweed line left by the last high tide, then check tables to see if tides

ered foods, and thus demand high quality. Alan had pre-planned each day’s food needs, an onerous task I’m sure. I believe it entailed some


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION experimentation in the kitchen. Water was in all instances treated with a fast flowing MSR filter system, which was both excellent and efficient. Two Whisperlite burners and a few pots were rented from our kayak outfitter. TIDES and CURRENTS This is the same area as Cook Inlet, famous for some of the world’s biggest tides (9.2mt). PWS tides can have a range of 7meters (21ft). Pick your campsite with care. Tidal currents were usually not an issue on our trip, except once or twice in some of the long passages. 1knot was the most we encountered. Some of the passages were only a few kilometres wide but over a thousand feet deep, 1400ft in one case, which is why the whales love them for travelling to and fro. FISHING One of my early jobs was to buy an $80 fishing licence from the Alaskan Wildlife and Fisheries Department. Knowing that some people may take on demon-like qualities in a uniform, we agreed to buy the licence and not to run the risk of really annoying such an officer in the wilderness!

Rockfish, char and salmon are the most likely catch. We caught about 4 fish in total making it $20 per fish. Almost Irish fish prices. Commercial fishing activity in the Sound is highly regulated and restricted to short periods of time called ‘openers’. This can result in a hundred plus boats, even trawlers, intensely fishing an area, anchoring nets or setting them perpendicular to the shore. Some smaller boats had two or three fishermen standing knee deep in salmon. A year’s wage could be earned with 6 weeks of solid hard work. Thank you to those fishermen who offered and kindly gave us fresh salmon. It was very much appreciated and cooked up beautifully. They in turn, must have been delighted with a bit of “an auld chat” from a few kayaking Paddies to break up what must become boring work. 95% of the caught salmon had been farm raised and released just before the opener. Pity to learn that Wild Alaskan salmon was not as wild as I always imagined. The big downside was the unwanted human activity, contact and engine noise for 3 or 4 days of our wilderness trip.



This also kept the whales well away from our area. It was disappointing for us as we could see a lot of whale activity 5km away on the far side of Knight passage as we headed south in the first week, but nothing as we returned north a week later on the “active side”. MAIN TRIP Late June 2011 is the time (to avoid the main bug season), calm is the sea, F1 is the wind, beating down is the sun, excellent is the forecast, silent are the surroundings, well fed are the happy paddlers, smooth are the strokes, laden are the kayaks (Guinness barges carried less alcohol), blowing are the whales, inquisitive are the sea otters, majestic are the eagles and invisible the bears. On board the 6 kayaks (5 NDK Explorers, 1 Pilgrim) is enough kit and caboodle to maintain and keep the team for 13 days unsupported in the Alaskan wilderness. We plan to paddle about 350-400km, stay dry, prove nothing, remain friends and enjoy the trip.

And wilderness it is. Make no mistake. No phone or radio coverage, no life boats, no doctors, no news, no re-supply, no weapons and no idea of what might or might not happen. We may as well have been behind enemy lines. Moving silently, eyes and ears alert, observing near, middle and distant sea and terrain, necks swivelling, binoculars at the ready, expecting the unexpected. DAILY ROUTINE 7 or 8 o’clock: ZIP ZIPP ZIPPP, SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH as three tents are vacated and their contents go swimming accompanied by snores from the two remaining tents, mine included! 8am to 11am: Breakfast, flaff about, pot wallop, undo bear hang, clean fire site, flaff about, dismantle tent city, repack kayaks, flaff about, kit up, check camp site and paddle away. 11to1pm: paddle on for an hour, eat a bar and crack on for another hour.



1 to 2pm: Lunch on a beach with a view. Some lunch spot views are burned into the memory. 2 to 5/6: paddle on, well fed and contented. 5pm: start looking for accommodation. Land, check campsite for bear sign, change clothes, unpack kayaks, assemble tent city, prepare fire site, prepare bear hang, dinner. Basically the 811am routines in reverse. 9 to late: sit around fire, drink a little, talk a lot, (or was that drink a lot and talk little-can’t remember!) enjoy the view, listen to the silence, keep an eye/ear open for Yogi, review the plan, be in the moment and hope that the tents are pitched above the tide line! Day 1, Sat JUNE 18 2011 (Whittier-Naked Island via taxi) Big breakfast at Gwenny’s. We ran into trouble right at the start. Eddie ordered GRITS (Girls Raised In The South!) never having tried them before but highly recommended by the nonetoo-shy waitress. This turned out to be a very unappetising looking white gloopy substance with a sickly porridge like consistency. I’m sitting opposite Eddie who hasn’t touched his grits

when the waitress comes circling back. “WHAT!” says she none too quietly, approaching from behind, “you haven’t eaten your grits”. I’ve never seen such a pleading schoolboy-panicked face on a 54 year old as Eddie searched the ceiling for an excuse. It would have been easier to rescue him from a whirlpool. Escaped to Carr’s supermarket, where 6 people with 6 lists, spent $2000 in less than 90mins on food. On to the liquor store, where 6 people with no list, spent $300 in 3mins on drink! Onto REI outdoor store for some bits and pieces. Back to supermarket, connect with taxi, collect food/drink, collect backpacks and head for departure point at Whittier. We had a very informative drive of both personal life and local interest as we headed along Seward Bay towards the Anton Anderson Tunnel. (It has linked the isolated community of Whittier, our starting point, with civilisation since 1943. As commerce increased the railway carshuttle became inadequate, leading in the 1990s to a project to convert the existing tunnel into a one-lane, combination highway and railway tunnel. A timetable operates for one-way


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION openings. Miss your time and you have a two hour wait.) We hit our time, drove to the water front , picked up 6 brand new looking NDK kayaks, kitted up, dumped gear, loaded the water taxi, waved the luxury goodbye and took off at a rate of knots for Naked Island 60km away. Some Dall porpoises rode the bow wave giving us a bit of cheer. Onto Naked, gear, food, paddlers and kayaks landed and away went taxi. We had crossed that invisible line. The trip had finally begun. It turned out afterwards that 4 of the 6 members were more concerned about the actual camping for two whole weeks, rather than the kayaking. All 4 had camped for 4/5 days max before so this was a big departure from previous experience. Ciaran and Alan were the hardened campers. Right from the getgo this was pretty evident as they were so well organised, knew what to do and what not to do, settled everything down, popped up the main tent and picked a campsite in a pretty difficult enviornment. Chapeau. First night out, I was definitely concerned about bears. Weapons were not allowed for several reasons so we were relying on bear spray canisters. We discovered on water taxi out that there were only 3 cans for 6 people among 5 tents. We agreed to leave the bear-spray outside the tents on common ground. Not ideal. Really did not know what to expect that first night . Experienced travellers in bear country

might well laugh at my unease and concern. Was my narrow inner tent just going to become a bodybag or a nice wrap for a bear takeaway? Needless to say, I slept fitfully that night. The ground was soft, mossy and damp, perfect for the silent approach of a hungry, 12 ft, 600lb carnivore with 4inch sharpened claws sticking out of 6 inch digits on massive paws. Not to mention the teeth! Day 2, Sun 19 (Bass Hbr-Cabin bay-30km) Phew! -made it through the night. A great day’s paddling followed. We saw loads of eagles, sea lions, sea otters and porpoises. Fantastic to be finally on the move. A super lunch of wraps, salmon, cheese, soup tea /coffee. A flat calm sea, no wind, the sun splitting the rocks and the water crystal clear, made paddling the heavily laden kayaks easy that evening. This is the area where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in1989. It is widely considered the number one spill worldwide in terms of enviornmental damage. The timing of the spill, the remote and spectacular location, the thousands of miles of rugged and wild shoreline, and the abundance of wildlife in the region combined to make it an enviornmental disaster well beyond the scope of other spills. Today, we saw a huge barge, moored in close to one of the many small islands. Seemingly there are 7 such permanent, emergency clean-up and storage


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION barges, waiting in case of another spill anchored along the tanker route from Valdez to the exit from PWS.   The campsite that night was on a gravel beach which was surprisingly comfortable. We later agreed that this gravel made excellent camping, allowing body moulds to be shaped before pitching the tent. Noisy to walk on so Yogi wasn’t gonna be sneaking and peeking any more. Big relief there for Sennen anyway! Had the first of many great campfires that night and a fabulous dinner of steak, potatoes and carrots, cooked by Margaret and Alan. As usual I was last to bed.

Day 4, Tue 21st June (Ealeanor Island-Herring Point) Nice swim to start the day. I don’t subscribe to the straight out of bed and into the water approach. Heart needs a bit of a warm up. Get

Day 3, Mon 20 ( Cabin Bay-Ealeanor Island) -25km ) Woken bright and early by heavy snoring. Couldn’t figure out if it was man, woman or bear. Anyway, 6 bodies in 5 tents all present and correct. Lit a morning fire to dry some washed clothes. Surprising how nice it is to have a fire both morning and night. Charcoal bits from the previous fire along with fire-dried wood will have warmth in minutes. Open water crossing today requiring a good effort. Perfect paddling on a flat calm sea with protective cloud cover. Lunch on a tiny gravel beach in a cold breeze. Got to see our first humpback up close and personal. Three big blows and a perfect end-on tail fluke from 150mts. This was the moment for me when the trip, for real, had begun. I’m actually in Alaska, in a sea kayak, 12,000 miles from home watching and listening to whales blowing. Saw many more whales in the far distance. Discovery Channel in real time. Landed on Ealeanor Is. for water and an absolutely beautiful campsite. A sandy, crescentshaped, tree-lined bay facing out over a mirrored sea, to an Alaskan snow-covered mountainous backdrop. Construction of tent city now takes only half the original time. The bear hang was a major challenge tonight. Ciaran, the hangman, has the patience of Job. As the last bag of food went skyward the whole branch bowed down to greet us. 7 bags of food now hanging about 8ft off the ground, instead of 18ft. At midnight I sit and write my diary to a surrounding stillness and calm that is surreal. Not a sound. The snorers have not started yet.

ready to go, then have a quick swim, on with your drysuit, into the kayak and away. Delays overheating while paddling for a surprising amount of time. Again a very sunny morning with calm seas. This weather is just too good to be true. Couldn’t possibly last. Left our beautiful campsite on Ealeanor and down the east side of Ingot Island. Met two fishermen in a boat, got weather update but did not get hoped-for fish or beer off them. These guys are 40 miles out from port. Seemingly, when the weather is forecast to be calm, they travel far and sleep on the boat or beach, cooking their fish, drinking their beer for 2 or 3 days at a time. We however would have prefered no human contact. It was down as a wilderness trip, although, in a emergency, we would have been glad of the back up. A short crossing to Herring Pt on mighty Knight Island into a F3 head wind, which became a F5 around the head, decided an early campsite. Eddie quickly spotted a bear-bed behind the



beach in the trees, some big droppings and a small sea-shell midden, so our cooking area was set up 250mts away from our sleep area. At this stage we had stopped hanging all the food. Only smelly foods were hung, the rest piled on the beach with tins and pots atop. This was a chance we agreed to take. If a bear took posession of this pile of food, then basically the trip was over, unless we could scare him off. Noise travels unbelievable distances here, so bears would have heard us coming from a long way out. This is probably why we did not see any, as being basically shy, they would have disappeared on our approach. Also, as the snowline retreats, bears follow it up, eating the fresh green shoots. So despite not having seen any bears, I’m absolutely sure that many saw us. As an American friend later said “ Better to see no bear, than one bear in camp” Would have been great to see a few from a distance however. Next time hopefully. Before we left next morning we spotted a huge tree, angled at about 45 degrees, 5mt up a cliff face, directly above our linear tent village. All 5 tents would have been flattened if the tree came down. Surprising what you don’t see or notice when preoccupied with bear safety.

Day 5, Wed 22nd (Herring Point- near Squirrel Island) Resting for a moment in our boats, having carried 6 heavily laden kayaks 50 meters over flat sea-weedy ground, a solitary pair of male underpants were spotted fluttering on a big log back up at the campsite. Imagine if you will, the conversation. No smart arsed comments of a Deliverance type nature please! Not mine said all four males. Stand-off, or should that be a sitoff. Nobody budging. Hawkeye Ciaran adamant they were not his. Knowing that they were not mine, but in the “spirit of LNT” (Alan take note) I slipped and slid all the way to retrieve the jocks. That’s one you owe me Ciaran. We left Bear Cove (our name) and headed south down the inner side of Knight Island Passage. Another good close up tail-fluke. A wildlife-rich area with many seals, otters, terns and soaring eagles. Lunch in a stunningly calm and silent Lower Herring Bay with the most amazing snow-covered mountainous backdrop. Not a ripple, not a sound nor a breath of wind. Tree-lined mirrored water giving a perfect reflection of 6 coloured kayaks waiting patiently. Add to this



Alan’s lunch menu and the camaradrie of good company and you get the feeling of never waning it to end. Herring Bay Lower is a double fjorded indentation into the side of Knight Is, measuring about 6km long and 2 km wide. Much to explore, which people did individually, and in pairs, after lunch. Sitting in my kayak, on my own, in this stunning place, is something I will never forget. Alan, Eddie and myself later went fishing with hand lines. Alan and I both caught a fish, and Eddie, not to be outdone almost caught two eagles. Our first catch was in 200ft of water. Alan pulled up this ugly spiny barbed unappetising looking fish with a big bloated belly and eyes out on stalks like a cartoon character, dead a dodo. A rapid ascent from depth with decompression tends to do that to your dinner. Eddie had a long line out but decided to paddle on. After a few minutes he heard this commotion about 150ft behind him. Glancing nervously around he spotted two BIG fully armed eagles closing fast like Stuka divebombers. Unknown to Eddie, a rockfish had been caught on the line, had floated up to the surface with the pendulum effect and been spotted by the eagles. Mind you I think Eddie looked more nervous when the waitress at Gwenny’s was circling wondering why he hadn’t eaten her highly recommended grits! We got to keep the fish.

Later that evening, Eddie and I gutted the fish on a small rock outcrop before paddling on to the campsite, a kilometre away. Neither of us was impressed with the tiny gravel beach, which now contained the other 4 kayaks, their gear spread around, 3 tents and NO space. There we were, having risked life and limb in bear country, to gut smelly, bony, barbed, pugugly rockfish for our kayaking companions, landless. We managed to elbow our way in! However, at the next campsite, both Eddie and myself were first up the beach, marked out the two best pitches, moulded body-shapes into the gravel, and had our tents half up before the others could unpack. No messing with these boys. The funny thing is that neither Eddie nor myself had discussed the matter. A good laugh and no harm done. Margaret and Pauline cooked a lovely fish and leek risotto for dinner, which was followed by a big campfire and a few toddies. The bugs (big ones) were particularly annoying this evening, with everyone wearing head nets. Writing my diary in half daylight at midnight is now the norm. Day 6, Thur 23rd (near Squirrel Island-Squire Point) Moving south along Knight Is. we paddled into Drier Bay. Another huge indentation, 10km long


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION and up to 3km wide. The scale of these bays is difficult to grasp. An inner offshoot of this bay, called Mallard Bay is 2km long and 1km wide. Once again, we had a fabulous lunch stop. Loads of whales blowing in the distance. Flat, calm seas, under a warm sun. Perfection. Paddling on, rounding a corner, we spooked an eagle away from his salmon, which he left invitingly on a rock. How delicious, barbless, unbloated and meaty it looked. Alan and I were obviously thinking the same thing, but decided against it as those eagle claws are bloody big and he was watching us intently from a treetop 10mts overhead. Left Mallard Bay and paddled down the outside of Squire Is. We had trouble finding a nice

was to a crowded beach that night. Ciaran’s muttered parting remark to us was priceless, but alas unprintable. Her lycra- clad stance had made a big impression on him! However, we decided to paddle on and found another very small grassy tree covered site 3 km further on. Everyone was tired tonight, but dinner was cooked and a fire lit, despite the rain. More bear signs around the site. All slept well that night, and in keeping with Ciaran’s earlier comment, I’m sure some of the men were dreaming of a threesome of females frolicking back on the “forbidden beach”.

campsite. We had hoped for one looking out over the whale rich passage but no luck. It was getting late when we arrived at Squire point, a lovely beach with an ideal lookout location, except for the presence of a large woman. Her tent/stovepipe structure peeped out of the trees behind. Her yacht floated gently behind us. No Alaskan welcome here for 6 weary Irish paddlers. Getting close to dark now so a campsite was fast becoming an issue, with a high tide due tonight. A polite 5minute conversation ensued but her hips-forward, legs-apart, arms akimbo stance left little doubt that we were not welcome to land on “her” 200mt long patch. Her two female friends were inland and would be returning soon. She had no idea of how close she

A nice 8km open water crossing, via the Pleiades Is., with 1800ft of water under our kayaks. The Pleiades are a little constellation of tree-covered, vertical-edged, beautifully formed small islands, a great haul out for harbour seals and Steller’s sea lions. Located in the middle of Knight Is Passage it offered a welcome break from the F4 head wind. The original village of Chenega, located on nearby Chenega Island, was destroyed in 1964 by a tsunami from the Good Friday Earthquake, which killed a third of the 68 people who then lived there. This is a sacred area to local people and kayakers are requested not to visit, a request we observed. On to “Point Countess” where I was hoping we wouldn’t meet another possessive land-grab-

Day 7, Fri 24th (Squire Point-Dual Head)


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION bing female, in lycra tights, denying us sites! Landed on a beautiful wind-free beach in warm sunshine for a five-minute snack. It was so nice we chilled out for over an hour and collected loads of dry firewood using cave-man techniques. We headed on to Dual Head 6km away, crossing Whale Bay, which contains the smaller Minke Cove, Humpback Cove and Orca Cove. Whale rich country indeed. A water collection stop in definite bear country and on to Dual Head, where, as expected, there wasn’t as much as a twig for the fire or a drop of water for the tea! We planned on camping here for 2nights. The beach was again occupied, this time by an oystercatcher. He was guarding two eggs lying on the gravel, right smack bang in the middle of the best camping spot and was none too shy about threatening us. He accepted our presence as we ate a big lunch a short distance away. His mate flew in later and the caused absolute uproar. “Who the F--- are these people? I can’t leave for 10 minutes and you let the world and his mother in” she squawked and squawked, as she ran around in ever decreasing circles, zeroing in on the poor male. I’m sure Eddie had a flashback to his grits! Well you might ask as to how we knew it was the female who was doing all the yelling. We just did. Right! Life settled down as we crowded onto the unoccupied side of the beach and erected tent-city.

We skipped dinner, as we were all stuffed after a super lunch. Alan really had a top class menu prepared for every day, and today we did it justice. No whale sightings today which surprised us, but that was going to be rectified on the morrow, up close and personal. A big fire, cupla scupa, many stories on a beautiful beach, looking out to sea brought our great day to a lovely end. Day 8, Sat 25th (Dual Head-Dual Head) Today was the day we were all looking forward to. Chenega tidewater glacier, here we come. Right at the start we saw small chunks of ice floating 500mts out from the beach. A cold 8km paddle up Icy Bay, in greenish-white growler filled water, brought us to Gaanaak Cove, at the Northern entrance to Nassau Fjord. Just as we rounded the corner into the fjord a massive cardoor sized fin cut the water no less than 10mts in front of the kayaks. 300mts is the recommended closest approach to Orcas. Thankfully it ignored us. This whale then joined two more to complete a family pod of 3. We followed for a while as they circled in a small bay. We had no idea of where they were going to pop up. Sitting, waiting, feeling very small, wondering where they will surface next really does focus the mind. Two 4foot high fins, with one 2foot fin, 20mts from your kayak makes you feel very



small indeed. Alan, risking life and limb, gave chase and scared them away, to protect us. Such strong decisive unselfish bravery in the face of overwhelming odds is what makes great leaders! Thank you Alan for saving this poor soul. I guess those Orcas knew when they were beaten. See ref. (1) below for a good idea of our conditions today. No seals were killed in the making of this video. We paddled through this spot about two hours later. Nassau Fjord is over 1000ft deep, 6km long, about 2km wide and full of floating ice, growlers (1mt or less in height above the water) and bergy-bits (4mt or less). At its head the Chenega Glacier snout floats out onto the sea causing huge buoyancy forces to act on the ice face. From 5km away, we just simply could not grasp the sheer size of what we were looking at. From 2km away we could both see and hear calving activity at the terminus. From 1km away we were sitting there with our eyes, ears and mouths open! At 750 mts, the very closest you are advised to go, it was just breath taking. And still the sheer size escapes you. How can that face be TWO miles wide and 500ft high? Those chunks that keep falling in must be bigger than 10houses put together. See ref (2). See ref. (3) as a warning of why not to get in too close). The real danger during calving is the artillery fire of smaller ice, which can shoot out 500mts out

from the ice face, any one of which is capable of killing you instantly. See ref(4). Not to be taken lightly. The wind, which sinks off the glacier, was very cold. Glad we packed poagies all the way from Ireland, just for this moment. Sitting 750mts off the face of this glacier, in a flatcalm ice-filled sea on a sunny day, watching and listening to the calving action was an amazing experience. This was probably most peoples’ highlight of the trip. Some yacht-based kayakers told us we had just missed an Orca feeding frenzy about two hours ago. Many harbour seals give birth to pups on the floating ice where they are safe from bears. Orca whales frequently hunt the seals when they aren’t safely up on the ice. These were obviously the same Orcas we had met up close and personal at Gaanaak. The air and water were cold, and so were we. It was time for lunch, which we took on a very narrow strip of sand, backed by a small cliff, facing away from the glacier and the cold wind. At one point we had to make a wild grab for the kayaks as they were hit with diffracted and refracted waves from a calving on the ice-face 800mts away. Probably only 2feet in height, they were the biggest waves we saw during the whole trip. As we paddled back down Nassau Fjord, after some photos, we noticed that the brash ice was choking about 95% of the exit.



Deja-vu for Ciaran and Alan. Seemingly, a few years ago, Clissman/ Horner/ Forrest/ McDonald/Sherdan, had to drag their kayaks over some ice to escape over the ice-choked entrance. Again watch the wind and tide in these unfamiliar situations. Alan and Ciaran’s previous experience was invaluable, and it was reassuring to be in a safe quartet of hands. Returned down a cold Icy Bay to campsite on Dual Head collecting wood and water on the way. Not a word from Mrs. Oystercatcher. Poor hen pecked Mr. Oystercatcher nowhere to be seen. Dinner was demolished tonight after the big energyspend today. A fire and many whiskeys with thousand-year old ice finished off the most memorable day of the trip. A classic.

Day 9, Sun 26th (Dual Head-Ewan Bay) How often have you eaten your breakfast when suddenly a massive whale swims past 15mt offshore? This just keeps getting better and better. A long cold windy 6km paddle across the mouth of Icy Bay, sheltering briefly behind the well named Verdant Is. for a quick snack. Met Wayne, a soft spoken, solo 60yr old kayaker, in a double, who had spent the last two weeks paddling around from Anchorage. And we thought we were going well! Paddled on up to Jackson Bay and checked out

a few river mouths for feeding bears. No luck however, despite the many salmon we could see shoaling in the bays. Later, as darkness approached, we had some difficulty finding a campsite. We checked out a promising looking Delenia Is in the middle of Dangerous Passage, but alas, many ground-nesting birds were in occupancy. On we paddled. Ciaran might not be able to recognise his own underpants from 50mts, but again he was able to pick out a suitable campsite 500mts away across the channel. That’s twice, at 00-dark hundred, when hawkeyed Ciaran has found suitable accommodation for the team. A good man to have along! Day 10, Mon 27th (Ewan Bay-Eshamy Cove) How could this possibly happen in bear country? Eddie informed us this morning, that upon rising, he had found a whole salami in his tent! We considered getting Sherlock Holmes to investigate an attempted murder. What a brilliant plot. Even the murder-weapon, strong-smelling salami, would have been eaten by the bear. No trace left. Ingenious. Suspicion immediately fell on those who did not have bear-spray canisters to protect themselves that night. However, nothing was ever proved. Passed Paddy Point and Paddy Bay (there has to be an Irish connection) heading north for lunch at Granite Bay. Bit of a shock today as we


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION ran into a big fleet of small boats fishing an opener. Nets everywhere. There was a lot of noise, and loads of salmon jumping everywhere. Margaret and Pauline put on some make-up, paddled over to a boat and returned 5 minutes later with some lovely fillets of salmon for dinner. Well-done girls. The hoped-for empty cabin in Eshamy lagoon was occupied unfortunately, so we paddled on for a while to escape the noise. Pitched camp at boat-free Eshamy Cove, cooked salmon for dinner, drank a few whiskeys and turned in for the night. A little rain later. Day 11, Tue 28th (Eshamy Cove-Perry Island) A 3hr paddle of 17km to Lighthouse reserve, passing Crafton Is enroute. Lovely sunny conditions with a light head wind and a 1kn contra flow. All along this route we passed boats and nets. It was time for a change of scene. We had a big lunch in an idyllic location, in lovely sunshine, our kit spread our drying, before an enjoyable open-water crossing of 12km to Perry Island. This we did in 1hr 40mins with a light tail wind and some wave assist. We left the noise

far behind as we headed for Meares Point, our home for the next two nights. This was an excellent campsite with fine views and a bug-repelling light wind. We had out-paddled the noise of the fishing boats and returned to the beautiful silence of wilderness Alaska. Eddie and I paddled about a kilometre away from the camp to fillet a whole salmon, kindly given to us earlier by a fisherman. There we were, knives in hand, a salmon on a log, collected bundles of fire wood at our feet, our kayaks bobbing gently behind us, feeling very much like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. It felt totally natural and normal to be standing here and at one with your surroundings. It was a great feeling and one I shall long treasure. A lovely salmon dinner with rice, carrots and Perry sauce no less!. This is day 11, don’t forget, and we still have a rich and varied menu, both for dinner and lunch. Big breakfasts are also the norm with cereal, dried fruit, freshly cooked bannocks, bacon, eggs tea and coffee. I kid you not. Day 12, Wed 29th (Circumnavigation of Perry Is land)



Great to paddle a light kayak on a perfect day for paddling. We have been so lucky with the weather. We were especially delighted for Alan/Ciaran as they deserved a break after their previous rained-on trip. It was such a beautiful day that we pulled in beside a little waterfall for a quick cup of elevenses, and were still there a “chilled out” 90 mins later! Says it all. All kayaks nearly got swamped as we pulled in for lunch. A wake from a passing cruise liner about a mile away arrived silently at the same time as us! However the quick reflexes of this highly trained team saved an ignominious ducking. Again a swim followed by a super lunch on a sunny rock-feature. We arrived back to our still intact campsite, laden with firewood and water. I found some old, half rotten oak planking from a boat, which made great long lasting embers in a fire. This we cooked on tonight as fuel supplies were starting to run low. Later we had a good old Irish singsong around a big campfire. The fire was particularly good tonight with comfortable beach furniture. The tide line was so close that if Ciaran had toppled

backwards off his barstool, he would be in the sea.( I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair!) Both Eddie and Ciaran are obviously practised hands at singing and were in fine fettle. In the Alaskan stillness, Irish songs, Dublin songs and rebel songs could be heard 12km away by fishermen turning in for the night, I’m sure. Paddy’s Bay must surely be haunted! Alan then regaled us with some hilarious Scout songs. As we say in Ireland, it was a great night and the craic was mighty. One to remember. Day 13, Thur 30th (Perry Island-South Culross) This was a wet one. Very wet. However this was our second last day, spirits were high and what’s a little rain to an Irishman or woman. Cool enough though on the misty 10km openwater crossing to Culross Island. We had a good assist from small waves travelling our way. Even 10 degrees bow down on a little wave causes a 17% forward shift of weight down the wave face! USE IT. This was the first time I used a Chillicheater top for heat. My drysuit is a lightweight one and the combination worked very well. It gave a lot of flexibility in


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION varying conditions. We ate a bar and headed for Applegate Island for lunch. Due to having been spoiled rotten on all our previous lunch spots, we decided to skip it due to the conditions and crack on to our campsite another 3km away! South Culross has a cabin marked on all the maps. Margaret and Pauline were particularly looking forward to a night off the ground for a change. As the song asks “is it cool to go to sleep on the floor”? We don’t know the answer because there was no cabin, no floor, no foundation, no nothing, except wet, wet and more wet! Camping spots were very small and tight. So tight in fact that we would not have been surprised if the two lower tents had a salt-water invasion during the night. I hesitate to use the word ‘miserable’ but it was starting to head in that direction. For the first time we had no campfire. Couldn’t even get the Volcano kettle going! Ciaran’s homemade community tent was a real lifesaver. Tunnel shaped with tapered edges, it had standing, sitting and sprawling space for the 6 of us, including our gear and kitchen wear. It also had space for those 3ft high-flaming Whisperlite start-ups that sometimes, in inexperienced hands, go whoosh! Yet it all packed down into a 20lt bag, carried on deck. A masterpiece, Ciaran. The rain absolutely hammered down during the night. Day14, Fri 1st July (South Culross-Surprise Cove)

Still raining. How did the guys deal with this last trip? Everything now damp, except one set of clothes and my sleeping gear. A long steady 16km pull up Culross Passage in the rain and mist. Pauline, a kayak racer put the hammer down, and away she went, with 4 kayakers wash-hanging off her rear. I refused to allow myself to be dragged by a woman anywhere, so remained aloof! Figured the pace would slacken off, which it duly did after 15mins. Now I put the hammer down and took off. No takers! This all helped to pass the time on a long pull. This was our last paddle of the trip and a bit of fun. A quick lunch stop and a snappy 8km open water crossing landed us into Surprise Cove, our pick-up point on the morrow. Another whale sighted. The campsite was small, damp, drizzly and crowded. All the tent platforms were occupied, and a British group of 6 kayakers were camped in the only remaining spot. We had to stay and so squeezed on to the edge of the beach. Definitely the tightest spot we camped in. Our community tent made a big impression on the other experienced kayakers. Had a great chat later with 3 of this crew, one named Barry. One of us discovered a full bottle of fuel and more importantly an unopened bottle of whiskey stuffed well up in the nose of their boat. Justice was done to the whiskey and some remaining brandy with our newfound friends. A few ‘top-kayaking-camping-tips’ were swapped between Barry and myself. Again it rained all night. Day 15, Sat 2nd July (Surprise Cove to Checkin!) Up early, breakfast eaten, packed the kit and fed the baby. The water-taxi arrived bang on time. Loaded up. What happened next is one of the defining moments of the trip. The boatman, perhaps a little naively, announced that there were a few beers in the cooler. “Big Bang” number two. Whatever about neutrinos travelling quicker than the speed of light, we know for a fact of six bodies that travelled much faster. Ice cold Alaskan beer, magically and instantaneously appeared, already half drunk in our hands. Thank you Epic Charters. A high-speed ride back into Whittier, unload, return the well minded new kayaks, a shower and shave in a hotel restroom’s sink, some shopping, lunch,


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION into the taxi and straight to airport. Alan, Ciaran, Eddie and Margaret flew home a few hours later. Pauline headed for Denali and I to Cape Cod to visit friends and fatten up for a week. LOOK THESE UP! 1. XSk (Orcas in Nassau Fjord) 2. mg (Chenega) 3. (big wave) 4. (Artillery fire. Note ice chunks flying at seconds 9 and 10)

We paddled about 350-400km, stayed dry, proved nothing, remained friends and enjoyed the trip. Thanks guys and gals, It’s so hard to keep this smile off my face,

Sennen O’Boyle, (Knotman).

Beyond the Atlantic Chart Got a handle on the Atlantic chart? This is probably enough for most sea kayakers......but the next step is to begin interpreting the weather at a higher altitude. Why look at weather higher up? The reason is threefold- for the Jetstream position, for clarity of Trough/Ridge positions and easier ability to see cold/warm air masses. The next most elevated chart is the 500hPa chart. (There is a 250 mb Chart available but used only for jetstream position) Surface pressure is about 1000 hPa (1000 mb), this is the total force (weight) of the atmosphere. The height at which the pressure is 500 hPa roughly divides in half the atmosphere vertically, half the mass of air being above and half below that height. In terms of height, 500 hPa is about 6.5km above the ground. The top of that part of the atmosphere in which our weather is formed is called the troposphere and is at about 17 kms. The 500 hPa level is, thus, effectively half way up the atmosphere as we know it. This chart often comes with your surface analysis in sites such as Wetterzentral, and from the NOAA. Formations are much smoother because the underlying surface (except in the high mountain areas of the world) doesn't effect these high altitudes (and because observations are sparse). The shapes of 500 hPa isobars are similar to those at the Surface isobars: you can find lows, highs, ridges and

troughs, though the latter two are more usual ISSUE 51

IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION than closed circles. If you compare 500 hPa and MSLP charts, you often find a family of small surface lows below a 500hPa level Low. Also, the weather under a 500 hPa Low or trough tends to have more precipitation, at least showers, even is there are no fronts present. For numerical models, 500 hPa height (and especially the jetstream pattern it reflects) is much easier to get right than the exact location of individual surface lows and fronts. We use the 500 hPa chart to get a general outlook of weather, especially to talk about 5-10 days ahead. As we explained in the Three cell model, the Polar Jetstream, formed by the Coriolis effect on winds heading to the poles, is a fast moving westerly wind that rushes around the globe between around 40 – 70° North and South, and at an altitude of around 30,000 – 40,000ft. In wintertime, the average location of the jetstream shifts equatorward, and in summertime it shifts poleward.

cold air and hence low geopotential heights) and Ridges (northward-pointing kinks containing warm air and high geopotential heights), forming a series of so-called Rossby Waves around the globe.- see diagram opposite. We can see that the jetstream flows southeastwards along the western flank (edge) of a trough, curves around the base of it, and then flows northeastwards along its eastern flank, up along the western flank of the neighboring ridge. It then flows over the top of this ridge and back down southeastwards on its eastern flank. This pattern repeats around the globe (though in some cases the jetstream may become detached or split and flow in two directions, or even disappear completely in some areas). Below is an actual depiction from the same date as per the previous article on examining the synoptic chart; 11/1/2007 Note the Jetstream flow depicted by the thick line, it crossess to the South of Ireland. Imagine this fast river of air flowing from Newfoundland to our southern coast.

The jetstreams strength and direction is not constant, however, meandering north and southwards in places, and varying in strength from between 0 – 250mph. This variation can be seen in an upper chart as a series of Troughs (southward-pointing kinks containing



Now examine the Surface Atlantic the next day, 12/1/2007; Note that the Low (992) situated on Newfoundlands coast on the 11/1/2007 has been dragged half way across the Atlantic in a mere 24-hours by the overhead Jetstream to form the mid Atlantic Low (970). The Low (951) South of Iceland in 11/1/2007 being further north of the Jetstream is less under its influence ( and already partially occluded) has now become one of several Lows on the axis between Iceland and the Baltic Sea. You might notice that there are more Lows in this region on the 12/1/2007 than the 11/1/2007- ie new Lows have been formed- more on this later!

There is a marked temperature difference (or

temperature gradient) along the Jetstream, not only at the surface but also extending throughout the whole depth of the troposphere, up as far as the stratosphere. To the north is the large mass of Polar Air, to the South and Tropical air to the south. So you will often see 500 hPa charts in nice colour schemes differentiating the two masses. Areas where the jetstream accelerates, strengthens and tends to take a linear path are referred to as Jetstreaks. A Jetstreak is illustrated below; 10th November 2010. Storm Carmen develops in the western Atlantic, underneath the Left Front Quadrant of a strong 80 m/s (180 mph) jetstreak east of New Foundland. Thick lines are isotachs (lines of equal speed), in m/s. Base


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION image from Jetstreaks are key factors in the formation of surface low pressure systems. Jetstreaks are divided into four regions, or Quadrants, again as illustrated above. Both the Left Front Quadrant (LFQ) and the Right Rear Quadrant (RRQ) are areas where the upper level flow is spreading apart, or diverging- another Coriolis effect. This upper divergence causes a “void” to develop at the top of the atmosphere, and air from below must rise and “fill this void”. Air at the surface will converge and rise to fill these areas of divergence. Jetstreaks act on surface levels like a bit like a vacuum cleaner, although the speed of this rising motion is only in the order of cms/second. This divergence/convergence process is called Quasi-geostrophic Forcing, and causes the pressure at the surface to drop. The stronger the upper divergence, the stronger the surface convergence, and faster the drop in pressure. This is one reason why Lows are stronger in winter than they are in summer, as the wintertime jetstream is a lot stronger due to a stronger temperature gradient along the Polar Front. An-

other reason is due to the cold polar airmasses over relatively warm seas. Incidentally, this rising motion causes condensation to occur, leading to clouds and precipitation. Rexamining the 500hPa Chart for the 11/1/2007, we can see some probable Jetstreaking in the Jetstream SE of Ireland. Its Left Upper Quadrant north of Northern Ireland so it is place for likely divergence. It is probably this factor that predisposes to the generation of those new Lows we mentioned above in the Surface Chart of 12/1/2007. Thus Lows form and intensify when a Jetstreak occurs above, creates upper-level divergence in the area of the LFQ. The LFQ is in the same area as the eastern curve of the Jetstreams's 500-mb trough. Logically, then, we should be able to find clues to the development of a powerful Lows by focusing on the evolution of the system's 500-mb trough. In the below example, the chart on the left denotes the 500hPA height while that on the right is surface analysis. This is quite a useful side by

IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION side comparrison found on wetterzentral . At Hour +96, we can observe that the Polar Jetstream travels South almost reaching the northern border of Greece. It retains this southerly path at +120 and +144. This has the effect of pulling the Low situated off the north coast of Norway across the northern coast of Norway and sustaining its depth for several further days (967), all the while splitting it form another close by Low which actually falls further in Pressure (963 to 960). The polar Jetstream appear somewhat sated by these Lows and does gradually recoil northward to lie over the Black Sea. Over this time, the Polar Jetstream has maintained a daily constant path over Ireland, thus sustaining a reasonably consistent flow of Westerly to our western sea board How is this of use to sea kayakers? Well, the 500hPA chart is easily available to us. And from the location of the Polar Jetstream and the strength of wind associated with the Polar Jetstream, and whether the stream is uniform or diverging, we can looking further into the future of our Lows. Is the Jetstream going to deepen them and perpetuate them? Is it going to drag them more rapidly toward us or away from us?


was my bedtime reading until it was finished. Jasper’s boyhood was in West Cork (Southern Ireland) and he left school at the age of 10 and educated himself by reading, riding horses, learning farming/rural skills and playing music. As a teenager he spent a summer paddling a fi-

breglass kayak out of Dublin, alond rivers and canals that carried him across the country, then south through England and down the full length of France. In the mid 80s with two mates in two folding kayaks, he paddled 2,000 kms down the

Title: Paddle Subtitle: A Long Way Around Ireland Author: Jasper Winn Published: 2011 Publisher: Sort of Books UK Website: Contents: 321 pp, sketch maps, b&w photos Cover: softcover Size: 129 x 198 mm Price: NZ$ 29 ISBN: 978 0 95600 388 1 Availability: Parson’s bookshop Wellington and also from Amazon Review: Paul Caffyn I thoroughly enjoyed reading this narrative about an Irish bloke paddling around his home island. Although there are well written books by Brian Wilson (Dances with Waves) and Chris Duff (On Celtic Tides) on earlier solo trips around Ireland, once I started reading Paddle, it ISSUE 51

IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Danube. Apart from a short trip to Patagonia, the earlier trips had all avoided the ‘big grey seas outside’. A circumnavigation of Ireland was in the back of Jasper’s mind for nigh on three decades but a first attempt by Jasper and his partner Elizabeth in 2006 came to a sudden halt after only four days with a painful gallstone attack. Two stays in hospital left him barely able to walk 100 yards with a stick. However on 9 June the following year, Jasper sets off solo in a yellow plastic Necky Narpa from South Cork and heads westwards for a clockwise paddle around Ireland. The writing flows nicely with a good mix of all the highs and lows of solo expedition paddling, ie., the morning climb into a damp, cold wetsuit, wretched wet and windy weather, trying to find a sheltered, level campsite at dusk, but great encounters with locals from friendly seals, to a huge intimidating shark, and the evening missions to find a local pub and join in with a jam session. Jasper’s decriptions of the coastline, fauna, flora and locals he met are easy to visualize with no over daramtization or embellishment. Aside from the writing style, I like the expedition style of this bloke – no sponsorship, no website to update each night – very much on the bones of his arse trip. Below are a few comments from a website which mentioned the book: It's the pubs that make Ireland a rather better bet to paddle around than, say, Australia. ComPaul Caffyn

pany and talk was a large part of what my trip was intended to be about. From the age of seven, I grew up in rural West Cork and, although I left as a teenager, I still think of it as home. I wanted to test out my Irishness – to talk, drink and play music. The trip also gave me a reminder of just how gorgeous the place is. My exploration of Ireland had been patchy before setting off in the kayak. I have travelled along some of its canals, ridden around County Cork, and lived for a spell in Dublin. But when you work your way, slowly, around a thousand miles of a country, you start to see places in a different way. You get to camp in solitude on uninhabited islands. You get to see wild places, such as Inishmurray or the Blaskets, where the harshness of life finally drove the population to the mainland in the Forties and Fifties. And one long day, I paddled past the Aran Islands, the home of TV's fictional Father Ted. Looking at the distant rocks, I was reminded of Father Dougal's take on relativity: 'Ah, Ted, that cow over there is very small, isn't it?' 'No Dougal, it's not, it's just a long way away.' I felt on many occasions that a similar misconception summed up my own trip. Ireland isn't that small at all. And out at sea, it can seem an awfully long way away. The book is paperback size, which leaves the four section maps with lettering a tad small for older eyes. The only photos in the text are included as chapter headings. The only colour pics are six small photos on the inside cover and a small photo of the author on the inside cover. I recommend Paddle as a fine kayaking reading companion, fitting easily into a kayak compartment, for bedtime reading and bad weather days. But given how well written it is, I would have liked to see a hardcover edition produced with more pictures in the text, such as the ‘journey’s end’ pic which I nobbled from a website. Paul Caffyn


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION has caused it. If the visibility is reduced to less than 18 kms by water droplets but you can see more than one kilometer then we call this mist. Causes include rain and low cloud.

Fog and Sea Kayaking Fortunately, our tight little craft permit us some excellent advantages to deal with poor visibilty. We can remain on dry land until it disperses, we can navigate close to a shoreline keeping it visible and thus continuing passage and perhaps most importantly, our slow speed and soft paddle strokes permit us to hear very clearly what is happening around us in the water- we can hear water break against rocks, against a beach, into a cove, we can hear sea birds on a cliff face and we can hear other craft

If the visibility is reduced by suspended particles to less than 18 kms but you can see more than one kilometer, then this is called haze. Causes include smoke, heat warping light waves and volcantic dust. See Turner's Chichester Canal. The haze in this dramatic painting are thought to be due to atmosphic dust from the three volacanos that errupted in his lifetime. Hence we can see that both water droplets and solid particles such as smoke can generate fog when visibility drops to less than a kilometer.

coming and going. The atmosphere has many constituents apart from its invisible gas content such water and particles such as dust, sand, volcanic ash and atmospheric pollution. Visible water can be water droplets and ice crystals in the form of cloud, fog, mist, spray or precipitation. When visibility is reduced to less than one kilometer, we call it fog regardless of what

Neither mist nor haze are huge issues for the sea kayaker. The reduction in visibility due to precipitation depends on the type and intensity, obviously the heavier the precipitation the greater the impairment. Heavy snow causes the greatest reduction in visibility (whiteouts), hail comes a close second, with rain next.



There are several different types of fog, we'll deal with them in order of importance to the sea kayaker.

This fog is again caused by moist air moving over cool surface and is called “Sea-Fog” when that cool surface is the sea. Advection means the transfer of heat by the flow of a fluid. It can happen at sea where a cool ocean current encounters warm moist air such as after a warm front, only lifting when the subsequent cold front passes. This fog can actually occur in strong winds. There are characteristic places around the world for such fog to occur such as over the Grand Banks (Labrador Current) and between Japan and the Aleutian Islands (Oya Shio Current) It can occur in Ireland during the spring and early summer when sea temperatures are coolest and warm front has just passed. This

Radiation Fog aka Ground Fog This is caused by a surface cooling significantly overnight (radiating out its heat) which in turn cools the air above it. This brings the moisture in that air below its dewpoint and fog forms. Dewpoint is defined as that temperature (varying according to pressure and humidity) below which moisture begins to condense. The fog tends to form in a shallow layer, then grows up as the air higher up cools. Radiation fog is associated with light winds- not zero wind as some believe. If there were no winds, dew would form instead. If there is too much wind, there is too much dispersion of air/ heat for fog to form. Ideal circumstances for radiation fog formation would be on clear starry nights, a windspeed of three to five knots, typical High weather. This fog tends to form just after dawn as the slight heat causes a small evaporation of the dew into the cool low layers to form fog. It usually will not extent further than 20 kms offshore. In summer this fog is usually dispersed from the ground up by sunshine and/or increasing wind by late morning. In winter, it can last all day getting worse toward evening- a “freezing fog.”

type of fog can be generated at sea, then blown landward to affect coastal passage. The triggering factors are cool currents meeting warm moist air. Look for a temperature difference of 13-14°C between the two.

Frontal Fog Frontal precipitation falls through a layer of warm dry air lying below it. This causes it to evaporate again which can trigger fog. This is fog is typical of weak slow moving cold fronts overtaking warm air ridges during the summer months.

Hill Fog aka Upslope Fog This term describes the low level clouds which tend to form near mountain peaks and high headlands. Rarely, it is low enough to affect sea kayakers. It tends to disperse quickly through the moring much as radiation fog does. Its formation can also be associated with the passage of a front and disperse when the front passes.

Advection Fog aka Sea Fog ISSUE 51


Evaporation Fog This is generated by the opposite circumstances, that of extremely cool air encountering water that is significantly warmer, hence it also being known as steam fog. The temperature difference causes significant localised instability, and the fog can appear as sharp swirls that evaporate into the air above. In arctic conditions, where it is most likely to form, it is known as “Arctic Sea Smoke.” It can occur over rivers in Ireland in winter.

IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE PADDLING by Martin Guilfoyle Residents of Mingulay August 1909

Smoke Fog This is simply pollution matter becoming trapped in a High and gradually accumulating so as to significantly reduce visibility. Sea kayaker's strategies for fog. 1)Wait- most frequently, we encounter radiation for which will burn off in a few hours. Sailors will monitor sea temps and dewpoints temps to try to anticipate its formation- unnecessary in a sea kayak. 2)If paddling out to sea, you should be able to punch through it after a time but when will be difficult to estimate. 3)Sailing vessels are supposed to sound their horns in the following manner; 1 long signal (4-6 secs) followed by two short signals (1sec) inside an interval of two minutes. Powered vessels are supposed to sound one long signal (4-6 secs) every two minutes. You can use your whistle! 4)If paddling along the coast, you may be able to continue passage particularly if your coastline sounds are consistent and you are not being pushed out to sea by a heavy swell. 5)Use your compass before and during your time on the water. Get your bearings. Tidal planning needs to be particularly accurate here as you wont get the same transit lines to reference off as you do in a fog-less environment. The lobster pots should be still there hopefully. 6)GPS. Probably a good time to switch it on and do some double checking. 7)Use night paddling strategies for keeping a group together; one leader, whistles, counting numbers aloud, frequent re-grouping stops etc. 8)Enjoy it, its a wonderful test of pure navigation and hones some underutilised paddling senses.

Sometimes when paddling in areas that are not familiar to you or places where you have little knowledge of the history and culture, you occasionally encounter characters and personalities that give you a glimpse into the real world and you see it not from the point of view of the tourist but as a witness to the life of that place. It was 1993 I was on a weeks paddling in the outer Hebrides with some friends from back in the U.K. The trip plan was to go south from Castlebay and around Barra head and up the west side and back through the Sound of Barra and back to Castlebay. A nice weeks paddling and it was somewhere I always wished to visit. My only “MUST SEE AND VISIT” was the Island of Mingulay. Each of the group had one must see and visit.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION This is not about the paddling but it has to be mentioned occasionally. We set off in goodish conditions from Castlebay.We landed on Mingulay an uninhabited island and had a wonderful night with Hebridean sunset and magnificent scenery and good food. The place was picture postcard and idyllic. The beauty of this now abandoned place gives no clue as to the hardship the people of this island faced. It was easy to think that this was paradise. We had a great night here in the ruins of the village.

We continued our paddle and the swell was up a bit so some of us did not go to Barra head but crept through the Sound of Berneray and met with the others who went round.We paddled north and eventually stopped another Island. As was the custom myself being Irish was sent to see if there was any people around so we could seek permission to camp. I followed a stream inland a bit and could no longer see the beach or the lads. Neither could I see any houses. I went a wee bit further and saw an elderly lady in old ladies clothes and she had a shawl around her and was wearing work boots on her feet. She looked like any woman working the land from the seventies. We greeted one another and she told me we were welcome to camp anywhere we

wanted as she was the only one in this part of the island. She asked me if I had seen a milking cow and I told her I had not. It was a lovely late afternoon and she sat down and asked where we had come from? I explained to her where we set out from, where we had overnighted and where we were going. “You camped on Mingulay?” she queried and when I told her we had, she asked me if I knew much of the Island’s history. I only knew it was abandoned in the years just before the first world war 1914-1918. Without prompting she told me the following and I cannot do justice to the way it was told. She was only a toddler when these events took place but she goy the story from her parents. That year (1912, I think) The harvest had been poor and the potatoes had got blight and other crops including oats were not good. The herring failed to turn up in late Autumn /early winter but the landlord still had to have his rent so the animals were taken. Some of the small fishing boats they used were also taken. The winter was harsh and the people had started to starve. They decided that there was good land and rabbits and some other means of feeding themselves and they could fish in the sheltered waters of this other Island. They took what little they had and went en-masse to the new land. Here they set up shelter and the men started to hunt and forage for food. Within days the authorities and the landlord confronted them and ordered them off the island and back to certain hardship and starvation. They refused. They were threatened with the full rigour of the law and the armed forces. Within days the men and women had erected puny barricades and when the authorities arrived with armed police and threatened the people they were told that as they were being sent back to certain death by starvation they would rather fight for the right to remain on a productive island than to go back. If necessary they were all prepared to die fighting rather than die of hunger. There was a stand off for a few days but eventually the authorities relented and let them stay as tenants. There was much more in the detail of the story which I have forgotten but the sadness that was in her voice when she said to me”the worst thing about it all was, it was our own that did it to us.” We went our separate ways and I felt that I had witnessed something, not great, but special. Each year descendants of these people return


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION to Mingulay to attend a special mass. By the way we had a fantastic weeks paddling and brilliant weather. It never got above a 3 when we went on the west coast of the islands. Mingulay is worth a visit. If the opportunity arises I would go back there again. The Outer Hebrides are a fantastic paddling destination despite the logistics.

Coastal Winds and the Sea Kayaker Land generally plays havoc with the wind, particularly irregular land surfaces such as mountains and headlands. When the wind blows parrallel to the coast, the roughness of the coastal land will cause it to change direction. This in turn will create zones of convergencethink wind squeezed together causing strong winds and zones of divergence where the wind is lighter. When the wind is diverging, we tend to see lighter winds close to the shore and stronger winds farther out to sea. Similarily, when wind is converging with the shore, the stongest winds tend to be close to the shoreline (with some veering clockwise into the shore) and weaker out at sea. Wind strength also plays apart. A light wind of F2-3 can wrap itself around a headland and sometimes blow perpendicular to its original path whereas a wind of F 5-6, it may only bend minimally when passing the same headland. Importantly for sea kayakers, we see “Acceleration Zones,” around headlands, which can cause the wind to increase by up to 30%. Similarily useful to sea kayakers is that we can see wind shadows after headlands, handy for a little reprieve from the wind. If a wind is blowing off the sea directly toward an area of high ground, you can find an area of lighter winds close to the base of the high gound. This area is called a “Detachment Zone.” Here the wind simply ramps or detaches from the sea surface to begin mounting the high ground. This leaves below it an area to rela-

tively low wind, but it will of course retain that swell previously generated by the stronger wind. This phenomena is quite common along the north Mayo coastline. Islands too will cause similar disruptions in wind direction and speed. In general, the higher the island, the more disturbance will be observed. Islands can create wind shadows, sometimes a factor of thirty times the height of the island (Note that height is more important than diameter here).

Wing Paddles for Sea Kayaking I've had number of queries about using wing blades for sea kayaking. I will through a couple of the issues involved. Are they faster? Yes, but not by much. When wings came on the scene in the nineteen seventies, world records in sprint events i.e. 200m, 500m, 1000m fell by about 2%. This wasn't a huge amount but consider a 2% advantage in sea kayaking- during a 50km trip, you are home a km faster- roughly 7mins- not much but an advantage nevertheless. Are they better for sea paddling? There are many aspects to consider. Wings tend to recruit the larger muscles of your body, you latissimus dorsi and trapezius (which run along your spine to you shoulders, your quads (top of thighs) rather than just your triceps/ biceps. Conventional euro blades tend to overemphasise your smaller biceps/ triceps to the neglect of the above big muscles. The long and short is that you may be able to sustain a higher speed for longer. Our sea kayaks are wider and more stable than K1 ICF racing craft. This means we can employ a longer more efficient (but more unstable) stroke than we can get away with in a K1. Thus a wing may be more advantageous for sea kayaking. What are they like to paddle? The immediate catch is less assertive than a


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION euro. The first third is similar i.e. pulling from feet to knees. The next two thirds are very different. The wing holds its catch of water better and thanks to laminar flow across the blade, the second third remains powerful. The final third is most different. The euro blade dies away and has to be plucked out of the water whereas the wing blade leaps out of the water outside your hips to set you up for the next stroke on the opposite side. What about other strokes? I find rolling easier with a wing. A roll is more powerful if you can pull your blade across the surface of the water rather through it. I find that a wing as less tendency to dive beneath the water surface so my roll retains more power. I can roll with the blades the wrong way around also. But a flat blade is easier to predict during a roll. But the greenland paddle is always king here. Sculling strokes? Difficult with a wing initially but can be acquired. Performing a sculling roll with a wing is difficult. Stern Rudder? Not as effective with a wing as with a euro. You need to lean further into the blade during an already unstable manouvere. Braces? Again not as effective as with a euro. Lets imagine a low brace into a wave. With a wing I find that I have to lean deeper and thus become more off balance with a wing than with a euro blade. Thus wings are not as good in surfing and nowhere near as good in rock gardens. Wings are made for racing thus tend to be lighter in construction and thus weaker. In the context of the safety/ support it is worth considering the following. The euro blade stroke moves parallel to the kayak hull. The wing stroke moves in a V shape away from the hull. I find that during a wing stroke though unstable water, I can lean against the V, i.e. against the blades tendency to move away from the kayak, to give me additional support during a forward stroke. In other words, a wing gives me a more stable forward stroke. However, a disadvantage of the wing is that if

your kayak suddenly moves laterally during the power phase of your stroke, you lose the Vmovement. You can find your wing diving under the kayak, being difficult to pull out and you going over on top of it. Performance in the wind? Not much different from a euro blade. It all depends on the feather of your blade and the direction of the wind. I would say slightly better. The greenland paddle is also king here. What about when I am tired? The wing demands a consistent upright stroke. It doesn't like change. Thus when you arms drop and fatigue sets in, the wing becomes less predictable. The euro would be more forgiving here. What about weight? Often lighter than the euro but weaker. Some such as Epics weigh only 600gms which is probably too light for sea kayaking. 800 to a kilo is probably safer. What about splits? Most wings can come in a split version with an adjustable central ferrule. Feather and length can be adjusted. Some of these allow adjustment on the go which can be useful such as shortening the paddle when going into a headwind to keep the cadence up. Each company has its own ferrule type, some of which are more troublesome than others. Be wary of any metal parts in the ferrule. What about strength? Wings tend not to be as strong. I have broken wing blades. They have a tendency to fold if you spear a rock. Which I did. Cranked shafts? I have never seen wings blades on a cranked shaft but blades tend to be sold individually and glued to match the customers demands so in theory you could build one. Reinforced tips? Some South African blades can be provided with kevlar reinforced tips- no harm in sea kayaking. There are blades available with metal reinforced tips which obviously cant be used in the sea as they will eventually rust and split. Types of wing blade.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION There are three fundamental characteristics to consider. Catch, power phase and release from the water.

The original wing had quite a parallel blade. This led to a weaker catch but a stronger power phase. Many top notch racers continue to use these blades. Newer wing designs have a more triangular design with the apex pointing toward the shaft and the wide base of the triangle on the outside. Teardrop shaped is another way of describing them. These blades tend to have a firmer catch (though not as firm as a euro blade) but aren't as strong in the power phase. The third characteristic is twist i.e. the twist along the axis of the blade. A significant twist means that the blade whips quite quickly out of the water on exit. Most companies will produce a couple of different blades of each type.

pared to the euro/ inuit. If you are paddling less than 40kms trips, in no huge hurry and plan on hugging the coast amongst rock gardens and caves, you probably don't need wings. Muscle memory is an important issue to consider- stick with what you're used to- try not to chop and change as your muscles dont like change. It will keep you more efficient and keep your roll reliable. If you do make a change, you may have to buy two sets of paddles. If your paddle breaks in big weather, you dont want to have to learn how to use a new/old unfamiliar paddle in this weather. Wing blades are available in Ireland from Jim Morrissey in Kayak M贸r in Galway. He sells Orka blades, just new into Ireland. I haven't used them. The seem to produce a type to fit all needs. Epic paddles are available online from Knoydart. Epic produce a very light blade with a firm catch. Jantex , Brasca are the two other main companies. Paddles can be bought online from them.

Paul kindly agreed to lend us this article from Sea Canoeist magazine about a particular weather hazard for sea kayakers.

Deceptive but 'Orrible Off-shore Winds by Paul Caffyn

Blade size. The important thing to remember that the large size wing blades are intended for sprinters. The are unlikely to be suitable for your average distance se kayaker. Go for medium to small size blades. Again, they don't offer a huge advantage in speed when com-

Introduction Wind is the curse of sea kayakers. It generates the bulk of problems that arise, choppy seas, capsizes, wind chill, weather tide effects, surf and so on. There is however an exception; a following breeze, or one quartering from astern, can be a real boon in aiding progress through surfing rides. A breeze on the beam requires continuous cor-


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION rections for drift and more concentration on balancing the boat. A breeze on the nose, or quartering from the bow, generates soul- destroying, tiring, very wet, slogs. The most deceptive and horrible wind blows offshore. Deceptive in that conditions may appear flat calm against shore with a light breeze wafting offshore, but with increasing distance offshore wind strength increases dramatically. Cliffed coastlines or those with marked topographic relief such as dune ridges, or swathes of forest, are particularly deceptive. Lurking sea kayaker traps are wherever those continuous cliffs or dune ridges are broken by gorges, fjords, steep sided valleys and narrow entrance bays. Recently I received a swag of E mail messages from Sandy Ferguson relating to a party of New South Wales sea kayakers who were subjected to the deceptive but 'orrible offshore winds at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney. I can sympathize with the N.S.W. paddlers' predicament, for yours truly was caught during the Australian trip a long way offshore immediately south of Jervis Bay by a sudden, dramatic wind shift, that left me with such a struggle against an offshore wind that I felt like throwing in the towel and abandoning the trip. Limping into the lee of St. Georges Head I coined the phrase, 'Wind was definitely the curse of the canoeing class.' Wind Strength Above an altitude of 500 to 600m, wind has an unobstructed flow over the sea while below that height, there is increasing frictional or drag effect between the air and the surface over which the wind is blowing, resulting in a diminishing of wind speed as the ground or sea is approached. The amount of wind strength reduction depends on the nature of the surface; over forested hilly terrain the air flow will be less than that over sea because of greater frictional drag. Approximate values have been determined for fractional drag: over open sea a wind 500m above the sea reduces by about 33% at sea level, while over land the reduction is 66%. Thus a 30 knot wind at 500m will produce a 20 knot wind over the sea and 10 knots over land. There is where the 'deceptive' description for offshore wind applies, for a factor of 50% can be applied to wind when it blows from land out to sea. A gentle breeze of 6 knots inland becomes a moderate wind of 12 knots offshore

and a 15 knot wind inland becomes a near gale of 30 knots at sea. The height and nature of a coastline govern the zone width of calm, sheltered water in offshore wind conditions: a. a long beach with a low sand dune ridge providing minimum relief, dictates a minimum width with the offshore wind felt at the water's edge. b. a continuous line of vertical cliffs will provide a maximum width of calm, sheltered water, naturally depending on the height of the cliffs which govern where the offshore wind hits the sea. What is the Problem for Sea Kayakers with Offshore Winds? The obvious problem with offshore winds is being blown offshore. Where there is no offlying shelter, such as a reef or island, and the next continent is thousands of miles away, the chances of survival without a radio or batphone are zilch. I maintain that once a wind rises over 30 knots, paddling progress into the wind grinds to a halt. With wind strengths over 40 knots, strong forward paddling is over-come by wind and chop drift downwind, with resultant seawards drift. No matter whether a kayaker is five meters, 50m, 500m, or 5km offshore in 35+ knots of offshore wind, the situation is the same. The chance of reaching shore is slim from 5m out and zilch from further out. Any misadventure such as a dropped paddle or capsize, both occurred with two paddlers off Jervis Bay, result in instant seawards drift and a greater distance to reach shore after recovering from the misadventure. By way of example to those who have yet to experience such conditions, I struck diabolical offshore conditions during my first day in the Bering Sea, on the northern side of the Alaska Peninsula with a gale force wind blowing offshore over a low dune ridge and flat tundra inland. The sea was flat calm, a low surge against a gravel beach, wind ripples close inshore and an increasing density of whitecaps with distance out from the beach. Deceptively good paddling conditions, but bear in mind the 50% increase in wind strength from land to sea and conditions more than 10m offshore were well beyond my limit to reach the beach. I spent many hours crabbing my way along the beach, the kayak at a 45 degree angle to the line of the beach to check offshore wind drift, the bow rising and falling against the beach with each surge. I was


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION fully aware of the risk, realizing the next stop offshore was the ice pack and unbearable polar bear country. Cliffed Coastlines & Kayak Traps At the base of a long continuous line of cliffs, excellent shelter is afforded in strong offshore winds. Steep hillsides close to the coast, continuous dune ridges and tall forest also offer shelter close to a beach. But wherever that continuous line of shelter is broken by a narrow fjord, narrow bay or harbor entrance, gorge, river or stream valley, the offshore wind is funneled through that break with unbridled force, causing williwaves and violent gusts or bullets of wind. And it is the violence of the turbulence that can cause the loss of a paddle or a capsize. Many sheltered bays and harbours have narrow entrances which open back into broad areas of calm water. Jervis Bay in New South wales is a classic sheltered bay, which has a narrow entrance with tall cliffed headland on both sides and we have many such examples in New Zealand. Offshore winds funnel through such narrow entrances with double or triple the wind strength of that inland. Also where a continuous line of cliffs of steep coastline is broken by a headland or cape projecting seawards, increasing wind strength must be expected often accompanied by williwaws and strong gusts or bullets of wind. What to look for An increasing density of whitecaps with progressive distance offshore are the best indicator of strong offshore winds, along with spray fanning seawards off breaking wave crests. White spray dancing over the water, indicates a wind funnel with bullet like gusts of wind lifting spray off the sea. Suggestions for Remedial Action 1. If an offshore wind is blowing at the launch site, be prepared to abort or shorten the length of the trip. 2. If caught in sudden or gradual change to an offshore wind, turn tail and run immediately and run for the beach or nearest shelter. Sea conditions will deteriorate as the wind continues to blow offshore. 3. When faced by a wind violently funneling out of a harbour or fjord etc., either return to the launch site or attempt to land and wait until the wind strength abates. Patience is the order of the day. If there is any

doubt, it is better to wait. 4. When caught on an exposed coast by a change to offshore wind conditions, hug the coast intimately, even if it adds considerably to the distance paddled for example by paddling around the curve of a bay. 5. Do not make straight line crossings of the narrow entrances to bays, fjords or harbours. Paddle upwind into the feature far enough before kicking out on the crossing. This is to combat ensuing wind and chop drift during the crossing and ensure reaching the far side safely. Weather Forecasts Marine forecasts relate to powered vessels and not paddler powered kayaks. Offshore winds commonly knock down the sea state, diminishing swell size and generating reasonable fishing conditions for powered vessels. Listen to the marine forecast and if the stated wind direction is offshore in your area, be extra wary before commencing a paddle. We know forecasts are not always accurate, hence a final decision to paddle or not must be made at the launch site. Points to Remember 1. Offshore wind conditions are deceptive, with calm water and light breezes against the beach. Always look for whitecaps offshore. 2. Wind strength increases 50% when passing from land to open sea. 3. Narrow topographic features funnel offshore winds, with dramatic turbulence.

Tay Descent On October 23rd, Dermot Hudson and myself travelled from Ireland to race the Tay Descent. I'd received some good information from Keith McGuirk so I thought I'd put something down for others interested in paddling. The Tay Descent takes place in Octobermore on that later- on the Tay river between Dunkeld and Perth. It lasts 38 kms. The river runs fast this time of year and so winning K2s are just under two hours, K1s at two hours five and WWR at two hours ten. The first 3/5 or one hour 20mins are flat, then a rough section last-


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION ing 12- 15 mins. The last section (2/5) is flat again and lasts about forty mins to the finish in Perth. We attended the second running of this race organized by the Scottish Canoe Association. There were around 400 paddlers in attendance this year, in all the usual categories that you see in the Liffey Descent apart from fast GPs. You had a choice doing it as a tour or a race. Tourers could also do a shortened course starting just above the rough stuff. There were six K1s, twenty WWR kayaks and eight K2 teams en-

guage near Campise Linn. The river level online was given at about 1.5m. While it didn't rain overnight in Perth, it did further upstream in Grandtully. Because of the steep mountains thereabouts, the runoff is fast. The river immediately rose to 2m overnight. The long course race starts in Dunkeld, a handsome stoney village set deep in a Highland valley, about 40 mins away from Perth. The usual boat inspection takes place before entry. The start line is in an eddy on the opposite side of the bank. The program advertised a separate

tered though not all eventually attended. Myself and Herbie only just caught the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer early on Friday morning- last car on. Three hours of driving got us to Perth. We able to spend the Friday afternoon on a recce of the rough section of the course. There are several small lanes from either the Stanley village side or from the opposite side- often leading down to fishing club huts- which give access to the river. It is certainly worth getting on the water to take a closer look.We were able to walk and paddle much of the rough water. Our recce took place on the Friday with the race on the Saturday. There is a depth

start for K1, WWR and K2 with two minute intervals. This unfortunately didn't take place- just a chaotic free-for-all with all racing classes. It would be a pity for this race to descend into a race between those who can grab and hold the K2 washes for longest. The water is already quite fast at this stage. My speed off the start line was 21kph in a WWR (and I ain't that fast). I had a good start as did Herbie however neither of us managed to get a K2 wash. They took off in a herd of three. I was alone for a while chasing a K1 when a couple of WWR trailing another K1 caught us. As the river descended the valley, the lines were usually pretty obvious. The river soon be-


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION came very boily. These boils remained quite a distinctive and disconcerting feature of the flat sections of the race. They were less evident when on a wash but you always needed to be aware of them and anticipating their movement. Several times we would be shifted a couple of meters to the left or right by a suddenly appearing boil. In understand that one crew K2 swam during this early stage when caught by a boil after a bridge. Further down the river, the course tends to meander. Sometimes, the faster

run it the day before. After the stopper is a very boily wave train full of swells, again tricky in a racing kayak. If you choose not to shoot this wave, you soon pass three small islands with channels between them. The second island is followed by a channel in which there is a steep drop- not really a goer in a racing boat. The third channel is shootable on the far right about a meter from the cliff. I shot this during our recce- only a slight scrape going over. It was shot by a K1

line during these sections was across the apex. This first section lasted some one hour twenty in WWR. Then comes the rough stuff. The rough section lasts only 15 minutes. It begins with Campise Linn. Linn means pond or small lake. Basically, the river drops left into a large area. The greatest flow drops left through the first channel creating a nasty stopper. There are plenty of photos and videos online showing this stopper. The stopper is situated on the right after you drop in and is best avoided. There is an easily available eddy on the left. The technique for avoiding the rough stuff is to come slightly wide, then drive toward that eddy on the left before the main stopper. Neither I nor Herbie nor any others in the racing class took this route during the race. Herbie did

during the race but he swam. Apart from him I understand all other kayaks in the racing class took the chicken shoot- a wide loop around Campise Linn- see my GPS track. It is very much like the Sluice argument in the Liffeyshooting it is a gamble which gives a psychological advantage but doesn't offer much in terms of time. Looking at the satellite photos of the fast water of Campise, the faster shoot may be the second channel rather than the first. The thing to remember is that you are already tired from an hour and a half of racing and this is the first time you are getting water on your deck. Below Campsie is about 500m of rough and boily water which was not major problem in a WWR but I would say the K1s were bouncing quite a bit.


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION There is then another 500m of flat water to the next major obstacle, Stanley Weir. This is a broken weir with several channels through. The obvious line is a broad shoot in the middle of the wire which every racer used. During race day, it seemed a little smaller. I shot it in lower water during the recce and it was bouncier with more difficult eddies. Keith McGuirk who races this stretch told me he takes a left sided shoot. This didn't appear runnable at our water level. After the exit from Stanley is a section of just over a kilometer of rough water. The river remains wide. You have the unusual sensation of riding a wave train in a river as wide as the Shannon. I was also quite alone during this section. I saw one K2 struggling through the rougher lines at one point but that was it. The faster water tends to be slightly on the left coming off Stanley, then moving to the middle before a bend called Fisherman's Elbow (Bend?). For the bend both myself and Herbie cut close to the apex to avoid the rougher stuff on the outer side. From talking to others the outside of the bend suddenly turns right which can cause you to encounter a stationary wave on your right beam which you need to be prepared for. You then pass a large mill on your right. About a kilometer down, you enter Thistlebrigg rapids. The river narrows here creating one long wave train with a lot of eddying along the outside- best avoided. The faster line is down the tongue and alongside the train. The entry was the only occasion that I got water

onto my chest. If you have been clever for the earlier part of the course and taken neat clean lines, Thistlebrigg will be the worst bit of water for you. My GPS/ Satellite photos don't show this too well. After Thistlebrigg, you have another forty minutes of paddling. The main issue for us here was a nasty squally headwind. It was gusting F5 at times. However flow was still reasonable. I was still moving at 14kph. Handling a WWR in winds is never fun and I sometimes had to hug the slower but sheltered water of the bank to keep a good rhythm. Then you see the three bridges of Perth. Our finish line was under the second bridge. Dermot won the K1 category, I got third in Wild Water. The get-out takes place a couple of hundred meters downstream of the Railway Bridge. The finish was a little messy with Canadians broaching in the wind and plastics littering the river. I am a bit of a snob in that I believe first across the line should be the K2 class, followed by K1 then WWR kayaks. A fast well oiled K2 crew is a great advert for kayaking to the general public watching the race. The solo K1s and WWR kayaks also impress the fitness, skill and balance of racing kayakers. The start times could be better organized such that the racers cross the line just ahead, after which the colourful detritus of canoeing can float past! ( Guess how much I will regret these words next time I take a swim‌)


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION In terms of safety, the race seemed very well organized. There were safety kayaks available to indicate the lines at Campsie and Stanley and hanging around the eddies of all the major obstacles. The fundamental problem with the race is its timing in the racing season. It takes place two months after the Liffey Descent which usually marks the last race of the Irish marathon calendar. The Liffey usually attracts between 800 and 1000 competitors when held in September. When held one month later this year, it only got 500. The Tay takes place one month later again. Unfortunately, speaking to a race organiser, the event is planned for the October Bank Holiday weekend for the next five years. This is to pander to some conflicting interests. Firstly, the salmon fishermen of which there were many on the river have a season which runs all summer ending in October. Salmon fishermen react to downriver kayaks much the same way as golfers react to my mountain biking on golf courses; their peace is shattered, their little charade of man versus beast (read fatso versus fish/ball) is burst and they swing their impotent little sticks (rod/ club) and bounce up and down like 'jello on springs' to quote the movie. I was given a couple of ineffectual gestures which only threatened to put the portly fishermen into angina pectoris. While there were certainly some big salmon jumping, it is hard to comprehend that the Scottish Canoe Association needs to pander to the wishes of such a small demographic for an entire summer. Someday, I would like to go water skiing behind a K4 down the Tay, and possibly across some golf courses too. There also is an effort to coincide the race with a paddle sports exposition in Perth the same weekend. Although the Tay is a river race, the exposition seemed mostly stocked with sea kayaking gear, of minimal interest to fresh water paddlers. October also tends also to be a month off for most competitive international marathon and sprint paddlers. While Wild Water kayaker's season in Ireland and Britain is just beginning, most of these competitors will be aiming toward sprints or short aerobic efforts rather than two hour slogs. A bad Tay in poor weather with a swim could cause an illness which could wipe out a paddler's winter season. A more serious issue is that of safety. We had unseasonably warm temperatures of 15 de-

grees. I wore a thermal over a neoprene sleeveless vest and remained quite warm. Herbie got away with a single thermal but he said he was quite cold by the finish. Water temperature was certainly colder than Ireland. Holding the race later means colder temperatures and faster flow but more distance to the bank- taking a swim in Campise or at the top of Stanley may mean a swim of 1-2 kms and hypothermia might then become an issue. Another point to make is the race distance. At just over two hours, it is certainly long, particularly given how long and boring the final slog is. None of the Irish competitors from last year returned this year citing the slog back the final stretch as the main reason. Given this is its second running, the event has developed nicely. The scenery, the rough water and the magnificent finish certainly give it the potential to be a great European race. Most fit racers could manage a downriver K1 if he/she had done their homework. The course is magnificent in terms of scenery and the wide river gives good opportunity for fair racing. The water gives the race its own unique character like the Liffey, the DW, the Waterlands or the Sella. A September run might mean less flow (and makes some rapids worse) and thus longer time but the whole experience might be more pleasant especially if the course were made a little shorter. The SCA seemed to organized the event in order to have a great Scottish kayak race. Fair enough. But they have the potential here for a great world kayak race. Lets hope they keep pushing in that direction.

Sea Breezes and the Sea Kayaker. Sea breezes are a nice little bit of microclimatology. They are reasonably simple to comprehend. Usually during summer months, in good weather with little cloud cover, the land heats up far quicker than water temperature would. Air rises over land sucking air from the sea creating an on-shore or sea breeze. The extent out-at-sea and inland to which sea breezes blow can vary considerably and can



extend for 50kms. A temperature difference of only 3.5°C is necessary to commence the circulation. They occur in ireland from March to late September. Because it is driven by a temperature difference, it will tend not to occur in morning, as the land will not have heated sufficiently- more toward afternoon and evening. A temperature drop of 2 to 10°C might be noticed 15-30 mins after the arrival of the sea breeze. It may even “arrive” at a particular time of day- the famous Freemantle Doctor wind, arrives into Perth at 13:20 every day. The “Doctor” surfski race, a famous downwind run which attracts the best ski paddlers in the world depends on this wind- it failed to arrive this year obliging paddlers to get stuck into a 30km ocean flat slog. Sea breezes start blowing at right angles to the coastline. In the northern hemisphere, during the day, they gradually veer (clockwise) and by sunset can be blowing almost parrallel to the coast. Sea breezes blowing around headlands and peninsulas are more complex. They wind here may blow in different strengths and in different directions, depending on where the greater pressure/ temperature differentials regarding the sea/ land. You can also see zones of convergence (sea breezes blowing into each other) above peninsulas which can cause cloud formation. The timing of the sea-breeze arrival has little to do with temperature differential and more to do with pre-existing wind. Another factor affecting sea breeze formation is tide. Areas with large un-flooded tidal areas will weaken the sea breeze.

Pre-existing wind conditions will also affect sea-breezes. If an onshore breeze is present in the morning, it will disrupt the sea breeze ciculation and weaken the sea breeze. An offshore wind will move more warm air from inland increasing the temperature differential and thus worsen the sea breeze. However, the arrival of a new strong wind in the afternoon, lets say through the arrival of a front, can negate or indeed exacerbate the sea breeze. Depending on the wind direction associated with the front, the sea breeze can be significantly increased or almost completely cancelled out. During the night, the clear skies can cause a cooling of the land relative to the sea. This sets up a circulation in the opposite direction – i.e. an offshore breeze (always dangerous for sea kayakers) occuring in the early mornring called a “land breeze,” which dies off as temperatures rise. It tends to be relatively weaker, rarer, of shorter duration and only extend 10kms offshore. A land breeze can occur in temperate regions when particularly cold land has a warmer current is passing nearby. I


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION the reported speed is a two-minute average wind, which includes instantaneous winds that are both above and below the average. It's only when the peak wind is significantly above the weakest wind that "gusts" are reported.

Wind Gusts and the Sea Kayaker The focus of the much of the weather issue has been wind because wind is of most importance to the kayaker, swell and rainfall far less so. Large scale weather forecasts are useful in helping us anticipate general wind conditions. They do fall short in helping us anticipate localised wind and most specifically wind gusts. These are of major significance to our small craft which can quite quickly skittle across the sea when out of control of the owner. Tackling the wind gust issue is difficult as most

information is more directed at larger craft quite a distance out at sea. However I have tried to focus in on this phenomena specifically for kayakers. When a forecast is given, say for the wind to be blowing at F3, it is rare for observed wind to be blowing consistently at exactly F3. In fact, often,

A squall is a defined meterological phenomena, of which gusts of wind form part; In 1962 the World Meteorological Organization defined that to be classified as a squall, the wind must increase at least 8 m/s and must attain a top speed of at least 11 m/s, lasting at least one minute in duration. I can find three reasonable explanations as to why we face gusts and squalls.

Turbulence effect If pressure and temperature forces were uniform, the wind would blow steadily. However, this isn't the case. Changes in the character of

the Earth's surface (e.g., trees vs fields, oceans vs sand dunes, and buildings of different sizes and shapes) act to create small variations in winds or eddies. When winds of different speeds blow adjacent to each other, the wind shear pattern changes winds even more. This occurs on a larger scale when paddling beneath mountain ranges, as we often do. Behind a cliff,


IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION you may be sheltered in the lee, however, progress on to the next valley, and you may find much of the wind you were previouly evading funneling down toward you. Sometimes, wind can blow vertically down toward you- see williwaws, katabatics etc. The effect of turbulence across the island of Ireland is often noticeable during a strong westerly airflow across Ireland. For example, the west may have a windspeed F6 with gusts of F8, whereas the same airflow, having crossed the island, will have lost some presistence due to turbulence and dropped a windspeed of F5 (and backed of course!) but retains the ability to gust F8. So even if the wind in your locality is minimal, look around! Look at the coulds particularly the upper level such as Cirrus, Cirrostratus- what speed and in what direction are they travelling? Look for Cumulonimbus which may indicate forming thunderstorms. Look for lenticular clouds alone or near mountain tops which indicate fast moving air.

Frontal Passage As we have previously dicussed, the passage of a Cold Front invariably causes unpredictable changes in wind and wind gusts. The front cant be preceeded by slackening air or by thunderstorms and passage of the front usually means average increased windspeed. One of the most famous wind increases in Irish history occurred on the 24th October in 1995. At Dublin Airport,the 10 min wind speed increased from under 20 knots to over 40 knots in a matter of minutes. Rosslare experienced the worst with gusts of 96 knots recorded. This event was primarily due to several cold fronts catching up with one another simultaneously over the south east.

amounts of warm, moist air rising into the atmosphere, where it can easily form a thunderstorm. A thunderstorm begins with mid -trophospheric cooling, this causes the significant updraft of air from the ground level straight up to the the highest reaches of the troposphere, condensing water and building those dark, ominous cloud sometimes with a noticeable overshooting top and anvil. As thunderstorms fill into a distinct line, strong leading-edge updrafts - occasionally visible to a ground observer in the form of a shelf cloud may appear as an ominous sign of potential severe weather. During the thunderstorm, the main issues are the sudden increase in wind speed (thankfully the sea state wont have had time to become anything more than a nasty chop), poor visibilty due to heavy rain and lightening. Being in a sea kayak is not a great place to be when lightning is striking. Consider a cessation in paddling so as not to be holding your paddle high and do not use (and consider switching off your VHF and any other electrics.)

Thunderstorm Passage A thunderstorm describes a short lasting meterological event involving gusts, rain and lightning. Basically two elements are vital for thunderstorms: moisture and rapidly rising warm air. Because moisture and warmth are crucial to thunderstorms, it makes sense that they would occur more often in the spring and summer, particularly in humid areas. The high humidity, in conjunction with warm temperatures, creates massive ISSUE 51

IRISH SEA KAYAKING ASSOCIATION Following the mid trophospheric cooling will be downdrafts, an easing of wind and rain and rapid passage of the squall. My experience is that a squall longer than ten minutes would be unusual. My general attitude if caught out in a squall is to 1) Prepare for its arrival and the poor visibility by getting a good fix on my position, local landmarks and dangers, other sea traffic and its direction/ speed 2) Reassess the water in which you are paddling; How will the sudden increase in wind affect it? 2) Get a compass bearing on where I want to go. 3) If lightning is striking, turn off VHF 3) If in a group, tighten it up- you may need to raft up with inexperienced paddlers and talk them through it. 4) Consider how I am going to paddle during it- am I going to use it to do a little surfing home? Am I going to put my bow into it and paddle/ sit it out? Is there an island or promentory you want to hide behind, as I have done? Don't be passive- you dont want to be caught beam-on and be simply blown along inside it. Have a plan, but don't be afraid to adapt it as cicumstances dictate. 5) If you swim, dont panic. Be wary of items that could blow away and remember that conditions will rapidly improve again. 5) Enjoy it – it often occurs on hot humid days and will wash all the salt out of your hair and off your gear leaving you nice, cool and refreshed.










Treasna na dTonnta  

Newsletter of the Irish Sea Kayaking Association

Treasna na dTonnta  

Newsletter of the Irish Sea Kayaking Association