Mega Mellte Adventure

It was another December day trip when 6 intrepid boaters decided that we should visit some of South Wales’ finest rivers. Initially we paddled an uneventful Tavy which was lovely. We then decided to run the Mellte which on the face of things was a great idea. It is not to long a drive from the bottom of the middle Tavy to the top of the Mellte. From there it is a bit of a yomp in to the top of the Mellte. Keep an eye out for this phrase later. The walk in is a pain and after we ran the shuttle it was about 1400 by the time we sneaked around the first drop and launched in. On the walk in a guide for about a dozen sodden children wandering around South Wales assured us that this was going to be a great level and he was jealous. This boded well for a good run of this river.

Everyone who has done this river comments on the drops, which makes everyone else think this river is like a staircase but in reality it has a lot of nice technical rapids of the kind I like. We floated off employing good group communication tactics and it was initially uneventful and at a good level. After a couple of rapids we came to the large drop that everyone gets out and films. Pretty much the money shot of the whole run. I didn’t feel the love when I saw it so I decided to walk round the drop. Typically I have no issues walking things. I try not to feel peer pressure too much remembering that at the end of the day this is a hobby and I have to do enough things I don’t want to do normally. Everybody else ran the drop and it was mostly uneventful. When I say uneventful I actually meant Simon swam and when I mean Simon I actually mean Simon Knox. Since I walked I felt that I wasn’t really in a position to laugh out loud but the four others made up for me.

After we tidied up and captured all of the gear we set off again into the gloom of a damp South Wales where the river became a very pleasant pool drop style river with reasonably simple grade 3\4 rapids where typically you’ll paddle round a corner, plop over a drop and punch through the hole at the bottom, repeat a couple of times and then relax in the pool at the bottom. I quite like this style of kayaking where you can pretty much just read and run and as long as you have your wits about you it will be fine. But if you decide that you should pull up along side a tree in the middle of a rapid, get out and let your boat run the rest of the rapid solo, Ludo, that is fine too.

We were just coming up on one such rapid where Simon Knox and Ludo were in front. Simon paddle round a corner and disappeared. Ludo hung around for a bit and then floated off round the corner too. I eddy hopped to the eddy where Ludo was and saw Simon standing at the bottom the rapid and Ludo having a scout. Since Simon had made it to the bottom I decided it was good to go, signalled Fattaur to my eddy told him I was going to do the usual ‘centre-left with feeling’ line and I’ll see him at the bottom. This went well but when I spoke to Simon at the bottom eddy he said that he had swam in a hole and his boat was somewhere between there and the sea. This probably explains the scouting. It was a little boily on the rapid but everybody else who wasn’t French made it down fine. We fished Ludo out.

This was the beginning of the yomp. As it transpired, Simon’s boat was in an eddy just immediately upstream of the portage that looked a bit evil to be honest. We attempted to get Simon’s boat and in retrospect ferry gliding across to the boat was probably sub-optimal and getting out upstream and walking down might well of worked better but it is the thought that counts. The nub of it is that Simon’s boat went down the nasty rapid but I didn’t! We had to walk out to the cars which was a pain but doable. We shouldered our boats and the walked down the path until we came across Simon’s boat stuck in a tree. Ludo and Fattaur kept walking to get to the cars and everybody else rescued Simon’s boat that was more or less intact. Now the issue we had was darkness and carrying a creek boat out of a dark gorge with no torch sucks or is character building. Simon complained that if he had actually lost his boat then he wouldn’t have to carry it. It was quite tiring and by the time Ludo and Fattaur met us I had built up a sweat in my drysuit and I was tired and hungry. What could go wrong now.

Well I dropped my phone in a puddle which was disappointing but not disappointing as Ludo reversing his car into a tree and breaking a rear light but not nearly as disappointing as Fattaur getting his car stuck on a wire that holds up a telegraph pole. You think that would be enough carnage for the day but the last dose of fail was a spilled milkshake in McDonalds.

I haven’t had that much Fail in one day for ages and I didn’t even mention Lee’s swim on the Tavy.

Can we go again please …. ?

– Duncan Sneddon





A few photos from a quick day trip to the Dart last November. Michelle’s first time down the Loop…

– Simon Knox



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Circling The Island

The surf and swells of Hayling Island and the south coast

“A Ship in Harbour Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For”. John A. Shedd

The surf and swells of Hayling Island and the south coast

“A Ship in Harbour Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For”. John A. Shedd

The plan was simple. The chance to experience the kayak from a different perspective. To escape from the confines of the river and head out into the great wide open. To smell the salty air. To see the horizon as the Earth curves away from us. To experience the sea from a sea kayak.

We set out from the Southeast extreme corner of Portsmouth at Port Cumberland. Sandwiches and flasks of tea stowed in the ample hulls of our long sea boats we set off onto the calm waters of the bay.

The overcast quickly gave way to the warm rays of the sun and as he shone down on us from above we enjoyed learning a little about the maritime ways and customs of the sea.
The inward tide carried us along at a good pace making for a relaxing paddle towards the mainland. The buoys drifted past us; or rather we drifted past them. On the open expanse of the estuary it was hard to tell. It is easy to become disorientated out here.

The plan was to stop for lunch at the pub at Langstone then head back the way we came but the good weather enticed us on to venture further out and try for a full circumnavigation of the island.

Those of us new to this were unsure but nothing ventured is a loss too big to contemplate with the chance to really achieve something so in very good hands and spirits we set off feeling a little unsure but eager to explore.

As we head for the lifeboat station on the corner of Hayling Island the wind picked up. Calm flat waters started to give way to high swells. We stopped for a short break by the lifeboat house and walked around the corner. White water and powerful surf created a tension and apprehension among those of us new to the sea. We contemplated and as we stalled the waters began to calm slightly.

Thus we again headed out onto the open sea. Navigating between the surf we cheated the waves as we wove and zigzagged in between, riding the swells that followed. On calmer waters again we felt relieved but the sea was to have the last word.

We battled along the south coast of the island. St Helens was watching us from The Isle of Wight as we slowly paddled along, our arms beginning to ache and complain; there was no stopping as the high but gentle swells turned into gnarly surf at the beach – we had no choice but to remain away from shore and press on. Quitting was not an option.

We approached the south west corner of the island but the sea can be cruel. Our destination was in sight but a giant sand bank was in our way. We began to head out to sea and around the mass of sand and with no say in the matter this time we had to face the surf and the white water full on.

The surf grew more intense. The sea boats, if they had a soul would have been grinning from ear to ear. They were in their domain, bobbing over the surf as it crashed into us like corks on the ripples of a pond. We rode through them and over them as they played with us like colourful toys.

The sky of mixed blue and overcast began to give way to dimmer late afternoon hues of grey and with everyone feeling the toll we decided that we would not make it completely around the sand. The surf was bearing its teeth at us and the sun was getting ready for bed.

Our best option now was to portage our heavy sea boats across the expanse of sand to reach the other side. Teamwork, moving the boats in stages a few yards at a time we shifted them forwards to reach the other side.

Making our way back to the mouth of the estuary the Spinnaker Tower decorated the shoreline from the distance. Tired but exhilarated we felt a great sense of achievement and in spite of the pub option earlier and calm waters of the original plan we were glad we decided to press on…

– Michael Harris




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A May Day Flotilla

Magdalen and the Choir at Oxford.

An eclectic collection of boats of all classes and schools coalesced on the Thames and the River Cherwell to join in a convoy towards Magdalen Bridge and the tower for the May Day celebrations.

Kayaks were few in number so it was nice that we were there to add to the foray. There were many open boats from local clubs, paddle boarders, punts of course and various rowing boats joining in a colourful flotilla, which steadily grew in numbers as we drifted down the misty Thames under a salmon tinted sky at dawn.

Some fancy dress with some open boaters decorated with face paint added colour as people immersed into the occasion.

The flotilla glided up to the bridge as we all gathered below the Magdalen tower and as the clock reached 06:00am the Magdalen College Choir performed as hymns sounded out from the tower, a tradition said to date back 500 years.

Mercifully there were no jumpers from the bridge this time thanks to the watchful eyes of authorities planted around the area and so after the short service including prayers and the haunting vocals of the choir was delivered from the tower the bells of the city rang out and a round of applause and appreciation from the crowd and the boaters filled the air.

After the service the convoy of boats slowly continued under the bridge and along the Cherwell, paddling into the bright early morning rising sun. It was a lovely experience to join in this event and a really nice atmosphere.

– Michael Harris