Darn. I put my Seawave on eBay to ‘test the water’ and it went within hours. Still, it’s an excuse to show some of my favourite Seawave shots in five seasons of fantastic paddling. What a great boat that was. So great that, with nothing better available at the time, in October 2020 I bought another Seawave (left).
Gumotex are moving on up with hybrid dropstitch technology, originally showcased in 2019’s Thaya which is basically an old Solar 3 with a DS floor to make it more stiff. The new-for-2020 Rush 1 and 2 (left) is quite a more sophisticated advance on a DSF or hybrid IK.
The Rush models came out in April 2020, just as the pandemic hit and lockdowns, shutdowns and slowdowns spread across the world. It’s also said there was some kind of quality control calamity at the Gumotex factory which led to many completed boats getting shredded. As a result, stock of Gumotex IKs dried up at a time when post-first-lockdown IK demand went ballistic RTW. Other IKs gradually came back online, including other Gumotexs, but oddly, the all-new flagship Rush was put right to the back of the queue. I speculated this may have been a production issue and it seems I was right: I read in the PaddleVenture review comments: “There is actually a modification to the Gumotex Rush [for 2021]. The drop stitch area on the bow and stern elements is said to have been improved. Apparently there were more complaints here than usual, so that at the end of last summer no more Rush models were produced and this part of the boat was revised”. It’s not clear what the problems were, but it proves that making anything other than a flat DS plank is tricky and also a boat which can get round this (like the Itiwit X500) will be superior. The Rushs are due back in stock from May 2021 by which time all Gumotex IKs received a substantial price hike. The R2 will now cost over €1500. It’s also said the entire 2021 inventory has been allocated to pre-orders.
‘Hybrid’ is a cool word for a kayak which isn’t a Full DS like a Sea Eagle Razorlite and many others. These IKs are assembled from three flat dropstitch panels making boxy hulls which, according to the graphics on this page of the French Gumotex importer, can be sub-optimal in choppy waters. Me, I also think a totally flat, barge-like floor doesn’t help, but the Rushs get round this with raised side tubes which act more like stability pontoons, a bit like the Tributary Sawtooth. In addition you’ll se on the left the suggestion that tall, flat sides are more affected by waves and wind, which does seem plausible. Of course, if you only every intend to paddle flatwater on calm days, this doesn’t really matter.
Derived from iSuP boards, DS has become a blessing to IK floor design which hitherto had to use I-beams of parallel tubes (left) which complicates assembly and is prone to ruinous rupture if over-pressured, unless fitted with a PRV or the IK is exceptionally well made.
A Gumotex hybrid IK (below) retains the regular round side tubes of a classic IK for better secondary stability (afaiu) but features a DS floor for much-needed rigidity. However, unique to Gumo, DS end-panels are also used on the bow as well as shorter and less obvious panels at the stern.
A word about this fabric paraphrased from here: “Nitrilon-Dropstich is composed of a core of 1100 dtx polyester fabric made up of two sheets joined by a mass of threads exactly 10 cm long. Unlike regular PVC-based iSuPs and DS kayaks, the durable elastomer plastic coating is not glued to the fabric, but ‘pressure-impregnated’ which eliminates delamination risks more common with bonded PVC coatings. An additional layer of polyester-reinforced Nitrilon is vulcanised to the floor bottoms making them double thickness.”
The Rushs differ from the Thaya (1st gen Gumo DS) with the panels forming a more ‘hydroformed’ bow, another weak point with regular blunt-nosed tubed IKs. The Rush’s bow makes a water-slicing wedge sharp enough to cut ripe avocados. The semi DS side tubes are more complex than a DS floor attached to two round side tubes (like the Thaya and some Aquaglide IKs, for example) and explains the high price.
The vital stats on the tandem Rush 2 are said to be 4.2m long x 82cm wide. Compare that to my Seawave at 4.5 x 78; the Seawave has an 11% better length/width factor (LWF) of 5.77 vs 5.12 over the Rush 2, but those are my Seawave measurements. The side tubes are said to be 19/20cm on the Rush compared to 22 on my Seawave. This and the length may contribute to the load rating dropping to 195kg vs 250 on the longer Seawave. That’s still plenty, unless you’re hauling a moose carcass out of the Yukon. The official weight varies between 15.5 or 17kg, depending on where you look online. The higher figure is the same as my modified Seawave with packraft seat mod.
Pressures are another obvious difference with the Seawave. The 6cm DS floor runs at 0.5bar(7.2psi), actually a modest level for DS, but an IK doesn’t need to be as stiff as a iSuP board. The slimmer side tubes run 0.25 bar or 3.75psi (same as the Seawave). Well, that’s according to the table from the online manual shown below. Many outlets still list 0.2 sides and so did the Gumotex website until I corrected them.
0.25 is a bit higher than normal IK pressure but not quite as high as 0.3 in a Grabner, a Zelgear Spark or the 0.33 bar on my modified Seawave. When you combine that with the stiff DS floor, the 0.25 sides must make the Rush IKs Gumo’s stiffest IKs by far. The difference is, I added PRVs to my Seawave sides before running them at 50% higher pressure to automatically protect them. The Rushs don’t have any PRVs which explains the warning in the manual, above right. It’s odd but worth remembering that my super-stiff Grabner Amigo didn’t feature any PRVs either, not even in the floor. Quality of construction (gluing assembly) must have a lot to do with it.
When you add any colour you want as long as it’s black, you do wonder if no PRVs is a good idea, because in the sun black things get hotter, faster. Black may be great for Cockleshell saboteurs, not so good for visibility at sea and it kills photos stone dead. It’s true the Innova-branded Swings in North America have long had black hulls and no one complained. But they only run 0.2 bar so need help in stiffening up in the hot sun. They also have fixed decks in red. Many Grabner IKs are now made with black exteriors too (right). One assumes the Rush’s grey, lowish-psi floor will handle increased pressures from passive solar heating, especially as it’s in the water most of the time. But the black side tubes will get taught which becomes a nuisance to manage (or worry about), even if tubes/cylinders handle high pressures better than flat slabs. In fact, as you’ll see from the comments below and elsewhere, Gumotex have found black is not notably worse than red or green in absorbing solar heating and dangerously over-pressurising. And if you’re that worried it would be just as easy to install PRVs in the Rush side tubes, as it was on my Seawave.
Because a DS floor is flat, one imagines it will hinder effective tracking, despite having a skeg at the back. The flat hull will plane over the water and wander off to the sides like a packraft – the so-called ‘[windscreen] wiper-effect’.
So, similar to Sea Eagle‘s patented NeedleKnife Keel™ (right), Gumo added a more discrete ‘keel hump‘ under the bow (left) to compensate for the lack of old-style parallel I-beam floor tubes which added a directional element. You can see from the overhead image above that this keel hump is mirrored on the floor inside the boat, either by design or need. This protuberance makes a high-wear point on the IK in the shallows so it’s just as well the floor is double thickness Nitrilon, as mentioned above. It’s the same on any boat. On my Seawave I pre-emptively added a protective strake – a strip of hypalon – to the central tubed rib, though to be honest it never got much wear as I try and be careful. Mine was hardly worn in five years of mostly sea paddling.
Rushs can be fitted with optional decks (green on the R1, above, red on the R2, below), using the same velcro system as the Seawave, with those horribly bulky alloy spars (right) supporting the decking (surely a flexible rod like tentpole material wouldn’t be hard to make). I read on other reviews that they’ve greatly improved the coaming (hatch rim) so that spray skirts attach more securely. In the still on the right the footrest appears to be the usual rubbish black cushion adjusted by strap and seats can be moved to a variety of positions, too, but the other images show grey footrest tubes which are supposedly dropstitch – much better. Seats are now solid foam, but the base looks too thin and low to me. A stiff foam backrest (with side bracing straps) is good, but an inflatable seat base is much more comfortable to sit on because you can vary the pressure and so the height. Foam eventually loses its cushioning but an inflatable seat doesn’t need to be made of hefty hull-grade hypalon, as on other Gumo IKs (more in the vid below). But anyway, a seat is easily changed to suit your prefs. More on IK seats here.
Below, a review of a Rush 1 by Austrian Steve. Can’t understand a word but some observations: I like his convertible Eckla Rolly trolley/cart/camp chair; also love the lovely long canoe chute at 20:40. Have to say though, I winced a bit at some boat dragging here and there. Do the right thing, Steve; it only weighs 12kg! Note also this shortish boat seemed to track pretty well without a skeg – the frontal keel-hump may be effective in leading it by the nose, after all. But in the comments Steve admits the stiff, flat floor slaps down hard on wave trains coming out of rapids and I suppose would be the same at sea. It’s a drawback of flat, raft-like DS floors. See this for an easily translatable written review also in German.
The price of a 2021 R1/R2 has jumped from a hefty £900/£1200 to €1150/1500, plus decks going from £200/310/370 (tandem). There’s also a rudder kit (price unknown) which will be similar to the Seawave unit. IMO it’s not so useful, even on the longer R2. But like decks, some may like the option.
As you can tell, I was comparing the Rush 2 with my 5-year-old Seawave and wondered if it might be time (or an excuse) to change. An unprecedented five years of ownership proves there’s nothing wrong with my Seawave [I sold my Seawave in May 2020 then bought another in October]. What are the benefits of a Rush 2? Black is not such an attractive or useful colour for a boat, and neither is losing a foot in length or 50kg in payload over the Seawave – at least at sea. On a river the greater nippiness from less length will have benefits, but for that I have a packraft. As for greater rigidity, it looks pretty good in this clip but my adapted HP Seawave was very good compared to the lower-pressure Gumboats, and it seems the speed (see below) is no greater, but the gliding effort is reduced. The word is a Seawave with a DS floor will be out at the end of 2021 (probably 2022) but that will begin to approach Grabner prices.
Ten minutes after a paddling away from a tranquil Swanage seafront bathed in a Turneresque light (above), we found ourselves battling a stiff breeze rolling off the Ballard Downs on the north edge of Swanage Bay. The odd whitecap scurried by, a sign that the IK Limit was not far away. This felt like more than the predicted 10mph northerly. We dug onward, and once tucked below the cliffs the pounding eased. The northerly was probably amplified as it rushed down the south slope of the Downs and hit the sea. We’d paddled through that turbid patch – a bit of a shock before breakfast. What would it be like once out in the open round Ballard Point? Mutiny was afoot.
“Let’s see how it is round the corner, then decide,” I informed the crew. “Aye aye, cap’n sir.”
We eased around the corner expecting the worst, but were greeted by a magical sight: a line of 200-foot high chalk cliffs receding to a distant group of stacks and pinnacles glowing in the soft morning light and all soothed by a gentle breeze.
It was only a mile from here to Handfast Point aka: Old Harry, passing several stacks, arches, caves and slots. Ever the goldfish in its bowl, I’d got distracted before looking up tide times, but judging by yesterday evening’s paddle around Brownsea Island in nearby Poole Harbour, it was a couple of hours into its southerly ebb. We arrived at Harry’s about mid-tide but with still just enough water to paddle through most of the arches as well as some narrow slots which were already running too fast to tackle against the flow (below). A bit of a tidal race swirled past the Point, but nothing dramatic.
I’ve been planning to do Swanage for years and it was even better than expected. It must have been packed out yesterday on the bank holiday, but today, before 9am we had the place to ourselves. It’s a fascinating geological formation and all the better explored from a paddleboat.
Lit by a rising sun and on the top half of the tide must be ideal timing for a visit here. All up, it was only a two-hour roundtrip from Swanage seafront and in similarly good conditions would be easily packraftable from the north off nearby Studland beach.
Hope to paddle this again, one time.PS: Little did I know that this summer 2019 paddle would be out last sea paddle in the Seawave. Not since my original Gumo Sunny on which I learned and did so much, have I owned an IK for so long and had such fun times. What a great boat that was.
The plan was simple. Put the IK in at Limehouse Basin where I finished up last week, and take an easy canal-paddle up around what are collectively known as the Bow Back Rivers threading through the Olympic Park, then portage over Three Mills Lock onto what becomes Bow Creek. Here, we’d ride its tight meanders on an ebbing tide down to the Thames at Trinity Wharf. Hard left and, keeping on the north bank (naughty), for what looks like an easy beach take-out at Lyle Park, a mile downstream.
The whole 8-mile run included just two locks to portage. Compare that to 13 locks and two closed tunnels for the similarly long Regents Canal I pack’ed last week. Things didn’t get off to a great start, but next day we were back and on the water before 8am. We set off up arrow-straight Limehouse Cut. Dating from 1770, it’s London’s oldest canal, built to evade the Lee River’s final twisting meanders on Bow Creek which we hoped to paddle on the wat back. (Very detailed history of this river). Two miles on, a thick mat of spongey duckweed backed up around Bow Creek Tidal Locks. Tendrils of weed caught on the paddles and flicked all over the boat. Bow Creek ebbs and flows right alongside the near-stagnant Limehouse Cut/Lee Navigation, but this was surely once a single river system. The River Lee’s (or Lea) source is in the hazy Chilterns of north Luton, and reaches the Thames via Bow Creek, 42 miles later. The Lee River Navigation is paddlable from at least Hereford (Mile 27.5). In England, a ‘navigation’ in fluvial terms means a public right of way for all craft, with a precedent going back centuries. Not all rivers in England are a navigation. This whole underused wasteland between Strafford and Hackney was massively redeveloped for the 2012 Olympics, including the two new tidal locks mentioned. Before that, on the spring tide you could paddle up Bow Creek all the way to Hackney Marshes for some fish and chips. But while great for towpath activities, it seems the developers behind the refurbished network of waterways and new bridges didn’t consider paddleboat access either side of the locks. Odd, seeing as it was the Oh Lympics and all.
Our first trial came at Carpenters Road Lock (booking required a week in advance). It has a unique radial design with gates lifting a bit like a bulldozer blade. The CRT is very proud of it. Even though it’s permitted, as a single kayak I wouldn’t expect to use this or any lock; portaging is always quicker. But I would expect it to be fairly easy to get out and portage around a lock, just as I did 13 times or more last week on the Regents Canal. Maybe I’m going soft, but clambering up a 12 feet of rungs set in the canal wall, hauling the boat up, and then carrying it half a kilometre to the next accessible put-in doesn’t encourage paddling. What next; the cliff climbing finale from Deliverance (right)?
Two miles downriver at Three Mills Lock, (which I read was closed for repairs) we had to get up an even-higher ladder jammed behind a derelict? barge. To access the tidal stretch downstream of the lock, the only way was another long wall ladder, but it was behind temporary barriers. I could have wandered on to the Channelsea River to look for an easier put in, but where it joined Bow Creek (right), a cable or pipe to the crane floated across the surface, blocking the way. On a wild river you portage as long as necessary, sometimes miles. But either side of a lock on an urban waterway, how far do you go?
To be fair I’d timed the tide all wrong. I thought (correctly) that mid-ebb could be a fast run on the Bow, but in my greed for speed I’d failed to appreciate that at the tidal extent (the lock and adjacent Three Mills Island, left, 3 hours before LW at Bow Creek mouth), mid-ebb has already gone shallow. You’d need ropes to get down to a boat. I suppose the easiest way to do Bow Creek is to paddle up with the tide and then let it take you back – this must be what local hardshellers do. With a packboat you can dodge such backtracking. But not here it seems. And whichever direction you do it, once you’re in Bow Creek, I don’t think it’s easy to get out of the high-walled channel. Our East London paddle occurred during a mini-heatwave with temperatures up in the mid-30s. What better place to be than on the water. But not in it: that morning the news reported a staggering three drownings yesterday, all on the Thames and all separate incidents. Lacking the hoped-for thrill of the Bow Creek finale, the route we took wasn’t so interesting from the water, though would be a nice walk or cycle if you’ve never seen the Olympic Park in real life. From the water, you see a lot of high rises or backs of factories or construction to make more of the former. Even with its dozen or more portages, I found the Regents Canal much more diverse and interesting.
Hypalon is a cool-sounding word and although not made anymore, has become a generic term for the similarly durable syntheticrubber-coated fabrics still in production, like Nordel and Nitrilon. Once upon a time all rafts and were made of hypalon, then less expensive Asian PVC came on the scene. More about IK fabrics.
The other day, while lashing the Seawave to a chopped-down trolley, the bag sagged under its own weight and rubbed on the sharp edge of the hard plastic wheels which wore through the pack and then the boat’s hull (left) ;-((
The trolley had worked fine with my UDB drybag in New Zealand (below left), but that was partly because you can fully inflate a UDB via its one-way oral valve, transforming it from saggy sack to firm travel sausage.
Ironically, just two days before I damaged my Seawave I’d snagged a BNWT Orlieb RS140 (right) on ebay. I’d been eyeing up this non-rigid wheeler duffle for a while as a versatile Seawave transporter plus a reliable on-water drybag/buoyancy aid. With a bag like this, an IK or whatever you got can be transported easily across any wheelable terrain, or carried as a holdall or on its backpack straps if you’re strong enough.
With enough practice applying D-rings, let along bike and moto punctures over the decades, I was confident I could do a bomb-proof repair on my Nitrilon Seawave. In a way, I was even a little chuffed that my 5-year old IK was earning its first battle scars. Plus, in my experience rubber-based IKs like Gumotex, NRS and Grabner glue more reliably than PVC boats. Shiny packraft TPU is even easier: you can just tape it, but packrafts are low-psi boats not normally inflated with mechanical pumps. My adapted Seawave side tubes run 4 or 5 psi.
Things you will need
Patch The right two-part glue (below left) Solvent (MEK, Toluene) and rag Sandpaper or abrasive foam sanding block (note: Toluene eats foam plastic sanding blocks) Masking tape Small brush or wipe-stick Tyre repair roller (right) Well ventilated space to do a good job
Weight, Size & Volume Bag: 224g; straps 11g each (verified) 59cm wide, 43 cm long and ~15 high when full. Volume: 22 litres
Where tested Northwest Scotland. Medway
• Waterproof construction including IPX7 zip • Light • Variety of position options, providing you have the mounts • Four 58-cm straps included
• On the bow (where most tabs are) can be a bit of to reach • Not convinced it works well as a floor bag.
What they say Waterproof zippered packraft bow or stern bag for easily accessible essentials on the water. Fits any Packrafts (and a lot of other boats) by full perimeter daisy chain (for variable fastening). With the Anfibio DeckPack you can transport your essentials safely and securely in all conditions. Splash-sensitive valuables like a camera, keys or documents as well as emergency equipment and spare clothing are always at hand on the bow, the stern or on the floor beneath your knees. The DeckPack can also be quickly converted into a daypack for excursions on land or the use as hand luggage on your journey.
Review The problem with packrafts is there’s nowhere to put your stuff other than the bag it comes in, usually a backpack. I wrote more about it here, before making my own small Pakbag.
Otherwise, I like a 20-30L holdall, like my old Watershed Chattooga, or my current Ortlieb Travel Zip (right) with a handier TiZip and mesh-zip external pockets. These bags sit accessibly, but out of the way, under my knees, and on previous packrafts attached to a tab mount glued to the floor for when you flip.
Anfibio’s DeckPack is another way of doing it. It resembles Alpacka’s larger, 24-litre Bow Bag but costs 25% less at current $/€ rates. It’s a vaguely semi-circular, PU-coated bag of around 22 litres which, unlike the Bow Bag, has a perimetre of daisy-chains (continuous attachment loops, a bit like Molle). It fits most obviously on a packraft’s bow as shown above, as this is where most packrafts have four tabs and where the weight trims the boat best. But you could as easily mount it on flatter sterns (as on my Nomad) if you already have a big backpack up front. Anfibio also suggest it can go inside on the floor too. Using the supplied straps, the pack can also work as a shoulder bag or daypack, when away from the boat.
On my Nomad it it just so happened the bow mounting tabs where just right to fit the bag without using the supplied straps. Mini carabiners or more rust-proof fishing snaps (above) enabled a snug fit. So would reusable zip ties – also rustproof. But mounted on the bow it was a bit of a reach on my Nomad unless I shuffled off the seat.
In fact there are enough hull mounts on my Nomad to position it further back (above right) using two front straps. Here it acts as a splash guard extension and was much more accessible on the water without making getting in and out too awkward. It worked similarly well on my Seawave too (below) – something I’ve been trying to work out for years.
I submerged the DeckPack in the bath and, pushed underwater (ie: under some pressure) air bubbles slowly leaked out via the zip head. But Anfibio tell me:
Please note, the zipper is one-way air penetrable, that means it will release air to the outside under some pressure along the zip, not only the head, but it remains watertight. It is actually rated IPX7. Under any circumstances, it can withstand submersion.
Without pressure, there may be no leakage and so the DeckPack doubles as a secondary buoyancy aid – always reassuring on single-chamber packrafts.
Once I realised it would work well on the IK, I ended up liking the Anfibio DeckPack a bit more than I expected, but here are a couple of suggestions: • Drop the price and make the straps (right) optional. Most paddlers will have their own mounting means or ideas.
• A curved, meshed exterior zip pocket would be really handy for knick-knacks or having a GPS in a readable position. Or, run a line of daily-chains alongside the main zip, so you can DIY a mesh pocket to the outside without interfering with the main zip or bodging as I have done (left). It would make the DeckPack even more versatile and save over-working the waterproof zip to access stuff while on the water.
MYO Seatback Mesh Pouch As mentioned above, zipped mesh pouches on exterior surfaces are dead handy. You can put stuff in them, they drain or dry fast and they enable handy access without digging into a main bag. It’s one of the things I like on my Ortlieb Travel Zip.
On eBay I found 9″ x 7″ zip mesh pouches for makeup at about 3 quid each and quite well made. I zip-tied one around the side hem to the buckles on the back of my packraft’s foam backrest (above and below). It’s a handy place to stash the inflation bag, some cord, snaplinks, zip ties and the top-up adapter for my K-Pump. I even fitted one to my Anfibio DeckPack.
Packboat is my made-up word for easily portable boats that roll into a bag but deploy in minutes, in contrast with hardshell kayaks or canoes in aluminum, plastic, or composite. I’m here to suggest that if lugging a cumbersome hardshell on your overland rig isn’t for you, then a packboat weighing from 2 to 40 pounds and never bigger than a backpack might well be, while adding another great way to explore the outdoors…
Time to knock out a long-planned circumnavigation of Hayling Island near Portsmouth while this amazing summer lasts! P-Day came along and by chance, the weather and tides lined up: high 20s °C with a 3-m neap and a calm morning before a 10mph onshore afternoon breeze.
I’d ridden down and recce’d the harbour entrances a couple of years back and last year we’d tried to reach the harbour along the canal from Chichester, but that plan didn’t work out. You’ll find lots of useful descriptions online, but it pays to recall (as I learned on a run to Brighton) that on the English southeast coast the tide (which floods eastwards and ebbs to the west) turns eastwards from two hours before high water to four hours after. So while the water is still dropping the current reverses. The Brighton post explains it (and I’ve since found an interesting animatable graphic here) and it may also explain why we passed deserted beaches and got to turn north into Chichester harbour entrance surprisingly quickly, even if it was near calm. Occasionally a rogue wake rippled in from a distant freighter out in the English Channel.
It was soon clear that my estimation to cover this 22km lap was way too long. Shooting along the channels visible on the map above, mudbanks to left and right limited side exploration and we ended up under Hayling bridge (KM13.5) in just 2½ hours including lunch and a few drifts.
On the way we passed a lot of moss-covered sailing boats, lots of birds including oyster catchers (didn’t know you get them down south) and up nearer Northney marina, a brace of SoTs and a young couple struggling to control an under-inflated (or leaking) Sevy K2. Our high-pressure Seawave glided smugly by.
With less than half the tide in, there was already plenty of water to pass under the road bridge and between the stumps of the old railway span alongside. A huge rusting drum suggested a swing bridge to allow boats to pass; online later, sure enough, that’s what it was (left, see inset); a railway running from 1865 for just short of a century. When we drove off the island at about HW, it was the drum was only thing above water. Chichester harbour is packed with parked-up sailboats (‘moored’ some might say); Langstone is virtually empty, possibly because it has much less deep water and a much narrower entrance. These natural harbours formed after the last Ice Age and take about seven hours to fill, but drain in only five. And because they drain right down to unfathomable mudflats on which even a gannet in snowshoes can barely walk, exploring side creeks can only be done with the high water clock ticking.
To aim for Langstone exit channel from the bridge, head for two tall poles visible to the SSW. By now the wind was in our faces giving a greater impression of speed, but the tide was coming in for another two hours (or do I add/subtract two hours? My brain hurts). We were way too early to catch a roiling ride out the 250-metre wide Langstone channel back into the Solent. We’d have to hack our way out along the side, like a Maori war party.
Long before we got there we could hear the intimidating wail of jet-skis haring up and down the channel. They have such a bad rep and the two-stroke din doesn’t help endear them. If they sounded like Ducatis or Bonnevilles we’d be queuing up for a go! We passed the famous Langstone Pumpkin (above; a lost novel by Wilkie Collins), and soon after, hopping out to wade against the tide over the shallow Sinah Bank saw me sink into the vile black quicksludge which Collins used for the demise of his fickle heroine.
Nearing the channel I sought to dodge the in-pouring current by passing under the gantry of the Hayling Island ferry. Then I announced ‘All hands on deck! Prepare for ten minutes of full steam ahead’. That ended up more like twenty, because keeping close to shore was made trickier by frolicking bathers, parked-up jet skis and inflatable goofballs. To the right the tide streamed past way faster than we could’ve paddled, but along the sides we managed to inch forward at a stroll’s pace; a yacht motoring out mid-channel was no faster. I kept eyeing up points where the current might splay out, but it was getting on for a mile out over the East Winner sandbank before the effort eased, the seas slapped us about a bit and we were out in the Solent for a choppy paddle back to the beach (above), now packed with frolicking sunbathers, paddleboarders and inflatable goofballs. Quite worn out, we beached the kayak and jumped back into the warm sea to wash off the salt and sweat.
It’s fun to try new stuff and paddle on a sunny day, but overall I’d say around Hayling was a bit boring compared to a sunny day in the Northwest Highlands. Who wants to pass Funland and beach houses, mudflats, marinas and more mudflats? Reminds me of Darwin harbour but without the crocs and mangroves. I suspect west of here, the Southwest coast has more promise. I still think the morning start anticlockwise from West Town is a good idea: knock out that exposed seafront stage before an afternoon breeze (and the concomitant rise in bathers, paddle borders and hydrofoil kiteboarders hitting the sound barrier). But I’d aim to leave West Town 3–4 hours after LW. The unintuitive tide may be turning but once in the Chichester Harbour it gets you up and around to the Langstone exit channel around HW for a short paddle along the seafront back to West Town. There’s probably a formula for doing it clockwise from Eastoke and running the flood tide through the Langstone channel, but I’ll let you work that out.
We decided to lap the tip (left) of the Coigach peninsula. Doing it clockwise put us in the lee of the afternoon’s southwesterly once in Enard Bay and better still, we’d catch high tide at Achnahaird, enabling us to paddle up the creek to complete a near full loop back to the car via the freshwater lochs of Ra and Vatachan.
I remember being quite nervous the first time I did this way back in 2013 in my Amigo – in the other direction from Achnahaird. Looks like I’m not the only one – I blame the Pesda guidebook. It felt like a long old slog west then north between the Ristol islands – the tidal Ristol channel was dry. But by the time we’d passed the reefs of Reiff and reached the sparkling beach at Camas Ghlais (below) we were already more than halfway round.
Sitting on the beach, on warm days like this and always looking to refine my set-up to a razorbill’s edge, I sometimes think a sturdy football-sized net bag to take a beach stone would be handy to anchor the boat out in the shallows. This way it won’t beach itself, get hot and purge air which can make the kayak soggy once back in the cool water. It’s one slight drawback of running PRVs on all 3 air chambers. I could probably find some washed up net up among the flotsam and make one. Or I could Buy [a ball bag] Now on ebay for a £1.62. Leaving the sandy bay, I give the Seawave a quick top-up with the K-Pump anyway.
On the north side on the bay we nosed towards a slot cave, but white streaks running down from the ledges suggested nesting birds had hung out ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs. Either I’ve never noticed them before or there are lots more nesting birds around this year. It’s the end of May but there are still tiny snow patches on An Teallach and Beinn Dearg – maybe the season is late.
North of Camas the unrestrained swell was bouncing back off the low cliffs and small dazzling waves were breaking over semi-submerged rocks, making for a rough ride. But it’s all relative and showed what a sheltered life I lead, paddling mostly in and out of the protected Summer Isles.
We passed on sandless Faochag Bay and on turning the point of Rubha Coigach all was calm as the grand panorama of the Assynt peaks came into view (above). From the right: Quinaig; Canisp behind Suilven, Cul Mor, Stac Polly in front of Cul Beag, and the group around Ben Mor Coigach. It’s one good reason to do the paddle in this direction. There’s a bigger version of the Assynt panorama here taken on the road above Achnahaird. I really must work out how to do that panorama photo-stitch thing.
Coming down the Enard Bay side, we tried to explore some other caves with green moss streaked with guano, but got dive-bombed by angry shags.
Back out in the bay an unpredicted northwesterly picked up – time to launch that WindPaddle which has been sitting in my kit bag unused for a year or more. Initially, the breeze barely reaches 6mph – we could have paddled faster – but it sure was fun to kick back, look around and let the boat waft quietly along, free from the splish-splosh, splish-splosh rhythm. I wonder if self-driving cars will be the same.
It’s been a while since I’ve done this but the WindPaddle definitely felt better than my homemade efforts from years ago, as well as the knock-off WP I bought a year or two back. I tried a V-sail too but have never really got the hang of kayak sailing. It seems the sweet spot is hard to find: either the wind comes and goes and the sail flops, or it blowing so hard the sail can’t handle it and you’re clinging on. Still, I look forward to giving the WP a spin in slightly windier conditions. For the compact size and light weight I get the feeling it may be worth keeping.
The breeze picked up and we chugged along at a brisk stroll. But even then the WindPaddle feels satisfying to use. I think the key is the sprung tension of the composite batten (rim); it retains the circular shape of the bowl which means it’ll stay up as the wind drops and keep shape as it rises, then can be confidently scrunched down to a packable size without breaking. Doing that during a bit of a blow may be tricky, but it can easily be pulled back and tucked down unfurled over the legs (right). It’s only a downwindish sail but as with previous disc sails, I like the way you can steer intuitively by pulling one line back; a skeg must help but there’s no need for paddle-rudder assistance.
It was nice to look around in the quiet but I also missed that thrill of thrust when a sail catches and holds a good passing gust. Eventually we could stand the relaxed pace no more and the geef paddle-assisted us towards a stony beach at the mouth of the Allt Loch Ra creek. Squawking oystercatchers were guarding their nests. Left, by the bothy at Badentarbet last year; don’t stand on the eggs.
Refuelled, we paddled upstream for a bit then I tow-waded the boat, reminding me of the shallows of Shark Bay in 2006 – a good way to rest after what felt like days of headwinds. The short wade brought us to within a couple of minutes’ portage of Loch Ra just over the road. Now on fresh water, we dragged through the reeds before another short portage over into the adjacent Loch Vatachan. Picking a passing place close to the shore, the geef walked off to get the car while I rinsed off the seawater – another good reason to paddle this loop clockwise. It’s 15 miles and about 5 easy hours to loop the Coigach loop.