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Summer Programme 2018

MAY 2018

Regular features and one-off events are listed below. Details will show up on the Club Facebook page or email as we go along.

Regular features

Monday – 2 Star Training   

13502943_625509124284644_2559738633375640607_oEvenings from 21 May through to 24 July. This aims to equip people new to paddling with all the basic skills and strokes you need to be a competent member of a group on placid water.This year it will include a weekend feature (23/24 June ) at Upper Tamar Lake, where we will do four sessions on open boating. There is to option to camp over, have a BBQ and enjoy a great new location with friends. The training will comprise of 10 sessions with an optional assessment. [Contact Paul Greenway].

Thursday – Indoor Pool Sessions  Indoor pool sessions at West Buckland School starting again in September, for intro work and rolling etc. Email at the beginning of the week that a session is on, to members.

Thursday – 3 Star Sea Kayaking already been advertised and underway. [Contact Pete Thorn]

Friday – Kayak Surfing  Friday evenings at Westward Ho! at Sandymere beach. Introduction to kayak surfing when conditions are good and waves are small. Otherwise a great opportunity for the Club to meet and cream some waves. In the case of no waves there will usually be a short coastal paddle option. Details issued weekly by email or Facebook, conditions dependent. [Contact Pat Williams, Nathan Mower, Tommo]

Ad Hoc – Junior Training Sessions

DSC_2651End of May onwards, introduction to moving and open water to learn some basic skills and have some fun for the juniors. Venues will be the Taw at Newbridge, Torridge at Puffing Billy, estuary and coast, very much subject to conditions. Full details will be by email. [Contact Pat Williams].

Ad Hoc Trips Short notice trips on the estuary, rivers or coast, on weekday evenings or weekends, subject to conditions. Details by Facebook and/or email.

Weekend or Weekday Evening Sea Kayak Trips Weekend or weekday evening sea kayak trips. If you are interested in getting into sea kayaks, let Pete T know and get on a circulation group. During the season we will offer introductory sessions, basic training and rescue sessions. Otherwise there will be trips at a variety of levels. Details by email to group. [Contact Pete Thorn, Clive Doe]

Dates for Your Diary

Most trips below are not official club trips but are based on a group of friends and peers.  Most have already been advertised.

 Gozo  Sea Kayak Trip    28 May – 3 June. A peer group sea kayaking around the Maltese island of Gozo

Alps White Water Trip   2 3 June – 1 July. Not a Club trip but a group of peers, looking after themselves and each other. This is a trip for competent paddlers. Water is mainly grade 3-4. Based on car share. [Contact Kevin].

France Slalom Trip   25 June- 3 July

Not a Club trip but a group of peers, looking after themselves and each other. Paddling and camping at two slalom courses close to Lyons. Water is mainly grade 2 with some grade 3 drops. A chilled out and laid back experience. Based on car share, but people can come and go as needed. [Contact Tommo]

Upper Tamar Lake    23/24 June.   This is the weekend of 2 Star open boating but camping open to others with a big lake to explore. Bring your own boat and camping gear. [Contact Paul Greenway]

Cardboard Boat Race Bideford Quay   22 July. Help required to cover safety for an hour or so. Good fun and lots of spectators.

Youth Club Sessions 26 July – 10 Aug. These are four sessions we provide for the Youth Club as a condition for using their premises. We will need club members to help run and provide safety for these sessions. More details to follow [Contact Pat Williams].

Falmouth Sea Kayak Trip   8-16 Sept. Easy and intermediate trips will be lead, advanced trips will be by peer group. Details to follow but will be based on a campsite near this stunning coastline. People can come and go, as diaries permit, joining groups exploring the coast, islands and tide races. Sea kayaks only, with some experience required. [Contact Pete Thorn]

Lundy   Trip Date to be decided. A weekend camping on Lundy and circumnavigating the island by kayak. River kayaks will cross to Lundy by boat, sea kayaks will paddle there and back. A stunning weekend with scenery and wildlife but weather/tide dependent. [Details to follow]

For information on these and other short notice opportunities, keep an eye on your emails and the Club Facebook page.

2 star training course 2018

May 21st to July 23rd

Each year we run a 2 star  training course which aims to bring relative beginners up to a standard where you can be a competent member of a group on a moderate/easy trip.

If you are a current paid up member or wish to join BCC,  you are welcome to apply for a place this year.   Please email paul  “at” fordahill.com to book a place on this course or get in touch using our Facebook page.  

There are ten sessions in all,  six evenings, (usually Mondays from 18.30 to 20.00) and four sessions covered in one weekend.  All of these sessions will involve meeting at the club hut to get a boat, kit and any additional equipment required. The weekend will have a focus on open boating which is part of the syllabus. Below is a copy of the syllabus and the training schedule dates, so you know what is involved. In past years, participants have ranged in age from 11 to 70+.

In the first week, we will meet on the Monday evening to book out and organise any equipment required and run a dry session. The aim of the dry session is to run through some key points which will include general safety, terminology and basic paddling techniques etc. On the following Thursday from 19.30 to 21.00 at West Buckland pool, we will run through capsize drills and rescues. This pool session will enable us to carry out the wet work in comfortable surroundings. Once the pool session has taken place we will be continuing the training in an open water environment at various locations, subject to tides and weather conditions.  These sessions will take place on a Monday evening. The weekend open boating sessions will be held on the 23rd & 24th of June.

The cost for this training will be just £70 for adults and £50 for under 18s and will cover the use of all equipment, pool hire and any coaching expenses. If however, you have your own boat and equipment the course fee can be reduced to £50. This will be payable at the first dry session together with any membership monies that may be due.

Places on this training course will be limited as we have a maximum number of members we can accommodate.

Any club members who  attended the two star course last year and now wish to take their assessment will be welcome to join the group to refresh their skills prior to the assessment.

We’re all looking forward to getting afloat on warmer and lighter evenings soon, meeting new members and making new friends and having fun on the water and practising and learning new skills. During the course, we will endeavour to incorporate a sea trip to expand the new paddlers skills and environments and the intention is to have a BBQ and social on the Saturday evening of the open boat weekend.

Paul Greenway  …aka Greenie        BCC Training Co-ordinator


  2  Star Training Schedule  2018

Date / activity Lesson content Technical syllabus
21st May

Dry session & issue kit & payments

Canoes/Kayaks/ equipment/lifting/carrying.

25 mtr swim check

 24th May….. Pool session  Capsize/ self rescues

Swim check

 11th June….1st wet session    Lifting, carrying & launching. Forward paddling/steering/

returning to the bank & getting out.

18th June….2nd wet session  Forward paddling/steering-stern rudders/ sweep strokes A3,A3,A4,A7
23rd & 24th June…..Tamar lake weekend

(3rd,4th,5th & 6th wet session)

4 sessions Open boat


 2nd July…7th wet session Preventing a capsize/ support strokes/stern rudders A4,A6
 9th  July….8th wet session Open water- capsize/ self rescues/group rescues A5,B1,B2
16th July…9th wet session Basic journey ( sea kayaks)

Weather/ conditions dependent

 23rd July….10th wet session Extra Practice session







Dulverton Slalom 2018….Cancelled



Date: 03/03/2018 – 04/03/2018

Venue: River Barle, Dulverton, Somerset.
(O.S.Map OL9, Grid Ref. SS9128, Satnav: TA22 9HJ).

Contact: Clive Merrifield clive.merrifield@sky.com
47 Priorswood Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA2 7PS

Saturday Schedule: Practice from 10am (with safety cover on course) Registration from 10am Team runs begin at 2pm Second runs begin at 2:30pm.

Sunday Schedule: Registration from 9am Free practice from 9am until 10:30am (with safety cover on course) Official Practice at 10:30am First runs begin at 11:30am Second runs begin at 2pm.

Cost: Entry fee for BC members : £5 for div 4/open, £6.50 for div 3. Non-Members can enter by paying a one-time £5 temporary BC membership on top of entry fee. C2’s pay half the standard entry fee.  All entries to be sent to address above.

Bideford & Taunton Canoe Clubs invite you to join them for their Division 3/4 and Open Canoe Slalom, held in the beautiful Exmoor National Park on the River Barle in Somerset. This is a fun Class 2 river, making it the perfect event for both Juniors and Seniors new to slalom or those wanting to improve their skills on moving water.

Saturday is a free practice day for all registered paddlers with a fun open team event in the afternoon. We intend to offer coaching to anyone who would like it, please ask at control.

Sunday is competition day. Each paddler will get two timed runs down the river in each class entered (K1, C1 & C2). Please register to get your bib before participating in the practice sessions.

Competitors should stay on the water at the end of their run to act as safety for the next two competitors.

In case of high/low water levels a decision will be made on Wednesday prior to the event on whether the event goes ahead. If a change to event running occurs, decision will be announced by email and on www.canoeslalom.co.uk.

Camping is available on site (tents only) at £5 pp for the weekend. nb. The field gets very boggy when wet and is not accessible by car.

There are also various B&Bs, caravan and camper sites in and around Dulverton.

Further information
Refreshments should be available both days, selling hot food, snacks and drinks. There are also local services available in the village including pubs, cafes and a Co-op.

Toilets can be found in the village. These cost 20p.

In the interests of safety please supervise under sixteens at all times, especially on the river banks and crossing the road bridge (no footpath).

We highly recommend to wear wellies or walking boots whilst at the slalom site as the the ground can get very boggy when wet.

All cars to be parked in the public pay & display car park opposite the slalom site (next to the fire station). We also hope to have limited parking in the Exmoor National Trust offices car park. We have paid for this in advance so please come to control and pay (same as the public car park costs). Turn down road next to The Bridge Inn. Camping kit and boats etc. need to be carried back over the bridge, up the river and into the slalom site field. It is not possible for kit to be dropped off. Access to the river is available at the slip just above the bridge at paddlers own risk. Care to be taken of fallen trees whilst paddling upstream to the site. NB. No safety will be provided on this section below the slalom course.

All dogs to be kept on a lead and cleared up after as per the farmers request.

If you would like to have a look at the action from Dulverton Slalom 2016 click here or here.

Useful links
Judging guide
Slalom rules

2018 Spring Trip Programme

Below is the list of proposed padding trips from January 1st to the end of March.  The actual river may change due to weather and river levels, but we hope to have alternating easy and harder trips throughout the season. There may also be additional trips which will be advertised. Also shown are various away trips planned for the summer with a contact name.

Where you share cars, please pay your share of fuel costs and don’t wait for the driver to ask. Some of the trips are quite a drive.

 If you use Club kit, be sure to pay your £5,  but also enter the details of the kit on the sheet. Note all the equipment has numbers on them and this needs entering too. Please make Mario’s job of Kit Secretary easier, so we can trace any missing items.
 Monday   A very short email will be sent out on Monday to all club members advertising the proposed trip and its difficulty for the following weekend. No reply required.  (It will also ask for volunteers to lead the trip by Wednesday.)
 Thursday   An email confirming details (river, meeting place, times etc) to be sent by noon Thursday to all members. If you are interested please reply at this stage

Friday   Anyone wishing to go should reply by email / text by the end of Friday, please indicate where you intend to meet.

Saturday   A confirmation email / text, including who is meeting where, will only be sent to those going on Saturday.

DATE RIVER TYPE Proposed river, may change Suitability
Sat 30 Training Swift water rescue training Discuss with Pete
Sun 7 Improver Barle – Tarr Steps to Dulverton (6.5 miles) A small step up for beginners but worth it
Sun 14 Proficient Walkham / Tavy (4.2 miles) Suitable for competent paddlers
Sun 21 Improver Torridge  –  Blinsham to Puffy Billy (5 miles) A very easy trip suitable for anyone
Sun 28 Proficient Dart Loop (3.2 miles) Suitable for competent paddlers
Sun 4 Improver Tavy – Tavistock to Denham (6 miles) A small step up for beginners but worth it
Sun 11 Expert Erme (3 miles) Strong paddlers only
Sun 18 Improver Exe – Bolham to Tiverton (3 miles) Suitable for most paddlers
Sun 25 Proficient Walkham / Tavy (4.3 miles) Suitable for competent paddlers
Sun 3/4 Event Dulverton slalom . The course will be up in the spring for practice
Sun 11 Proficient Dart Loop (3.2 miles) Suitable for competent paddlers
Sun 18 Improver Barle – Tarr Steps to Dulverton (6.5 miles) A small step up for beginners but worth it
Sun 25 Expert Lyn or Upper Dart Strong paddlers only
Trips  / Events
28 May-3 Jun Trip Gozo Sea Kayaking trip (Emily) Discuss with Emily
23 Jun-1 Jul Trip French Alps WW rivers (Kevin) Strong paddlers only
18-28 Jul Trip Team France Lyon Slalom Courses (Tommo) Ok for most
8-16 Sept Trip Falmouth Sea Kayaking (Pete) For all standards

Falmouth Sea Kayak Trip 2017


 Pete’s  Diary


Friday 19th May

Folk started arriving at the Tregedna Farm site, which is close to two beaches and very relaxed. Nice enough facilities and just £8.50 a night/person. Quite a bit of alcohol flowed and we were bothered by midges.

Saturday 20th

Quiet and mellow was the request for the first weekend so we launched, with some difficulty, in Gweek at the top of the Helford River estuary. Setting for romantic novels this was a lovely float, with a following wind and outgoing tide. Mario led, assisted by Emily. As we approached the sea it became more lively and the last section round to Maenporth beach was more challenging than mellow. Coffee and ice-cream gave succour to the needy. 10 nautical miles done.

Sunday 21st

The plan was to go up Carrick Roads to Malpas, with a pushing tide and following wind. While shuttles were driven, nervous paddlers gazed at a choppy sea which promised a challenging start. 15 paddlers eventually launched at Swanpool, led by Emily and Mario in two groups. No capsizes though a few anxious moments and soon we were round the corner into a sheltered cove for a breather. Things settled down as we headed north up this big ria or flooded valley. Avoiding the many sailing vessels and the odd ferry we came across ocean going ships anchored. A rocky beach was all we could find for a short lunch break before pressing on to Malpas. With a delayed start we did not want to be fighting the tide. At Malpas we had nearly reached Truro, covering 11.5nm.

Monday 22nd

As the wage slaves returned to work a smaller group of ten headed for Coverack, aiming to paddle to Maenporth by way of The Manacles, a notorious set of rocks where many sailing ships have foundered. Five lingered there to practice rocky landings with a one metre swell adding zest to the challenge. We all made it onto the rocks and eventually back to our boats, learning much about rope handling. Richard led the day. One poor soul suffered with sea sickness in the lumpy conditions. On the way into Maenporth Richard noticed two hapless SUP novices being blown out to sea, so throw-tows to the rescue. More coffee and ice-cream.

Tuesday 23rd

After three days of trips we needed a shorter day, so Paul led eight of us from Maenporth to Swanpool and back, practising scenarios and rescues. A total panic capsize led to a swamped bulkhead compartment and a rescuer swimming. Much amusement but some good learning too.

Wednesday 24th

With a strong south easterly wind we transferred over to the other side of the Lizard for a trip from Mullion to Kynance Cove and return. Spectacular cliffs and some adventurous rock-hopping illuminated the trip. Mario led the group all day. Kynance is worth a visit as it has caves and sandy beaches with sea stacks. At Mullion we grabbed teas and ice-creams just as the tea shop closed, at just after 4pm!

Thursday 25th

A visit to the SeaKayakingCornwall shop gave us useful information and people flexed their plastic to buy bits of kit. We had intended to go to the west coast for a surf day but discovered our own Maenporth had surf up to one metre and few other surfers. We enjoyed some excellent rides and very few capsizes. The mission was clear. Get those rolls sorted.

Friday 26th

We were joined by Adam, our distant member from Teignmouth and Alex, a 4 star trainee from Germany, here to do a course with SKC the following week. With easterly winds we headed over to Portreath to paddle down to Godrevy Point and back. Sunny conditions and a west coast swell made for a fantastic day with some excellent rock hopping for this competent group . At Godrevy we landed on the tourist beach and harvested some excellent mussels for tea. Godrevy Island has a lighthouse and a dramatic passage through the cleft which splits the island.
18738842_696848153839390_6190255363101003106_oEven bigger mussels on the walls as we flashed through the gap. For the last section to Portreath we faced a strong wind at F6 but clawed slowly round into the bay to land through minor surf.

Saturday 27th

Ian arrived from Dartmouth but a planned trip round the Lizard was postponed due to wind. Instead we concocted a paddle out of Church Mylor round to Zone Point.

18700833_2038679926359501_4220656456457297126_o  18739196_2038680036359490_2808225596915509436_o

This passes the lighthouse of Fraggle Rock fame and gives access to some interesting caves, one of which we backed into for some distance.


Clive’s shoulder ruled him out for the day and the rest of the week.

Sunday 28th

On our last day six succeeded in rounding the Lizard, having launched from the iconic Cadgwith Cove, setting for that fishing series on telly. Clive and I drove, so no shuttle required.


Dave and Mario led jointly. We  tracked them past the Lizard, after which the lumpy conditions settled down. The drivers went off for lunch, nursing injuries, while the paddlers cruised round past Kynance to Mullion. We introduced our new German friend to the delights of a cream tea before breaking camp and heading home.

In all a great trip which catered for all levels of ability. Thanks to the aspirant 4 star leaders who did the work to make it safe and enjoyable.


Sun, surf and pain au chocolat!

Team France 2016 


Eight members of the Bideford Canoe Club headed off to meet up just south of Lyon at the manmade slalom / white water course at Saint-Pierre-De-Boeuf  . We arrived late at night in darkness after arranging for the entrance barrier access card to be left hidden for us so we could drive straight to our pitches. The tents were erected by the light of our head torches and we soon settled down for a well-deserved drink before bed.


The morning greeted us with delightful sunshine and a clear blue sky as we headed off to the local bakery for some flutes and pain au chocolate: this became a morning ritual!! After breakfast we booked in and kitted up for the first run down the course.


We had a mixture of Creek, Play and Slalom boats as the water suited all types. St Pierre offers some lovely warm up areas and parts of the river were perfect for practising and improving all of those basic skills that are essential for when you move up to the faster flowing water.


We were all soon bashing down the best of what the course had to offer from grade 3 drops to a gentle paddle along the lake at the bottom. The best feature of this place was the travellator which took you from the lake back up to the top of the course!


After three excellent paddling days we moved camp 1.5 hours away to our second destination, Sault Brenaz . This course offered a twistier route with some slightly more challenging features and drops. The weather was holding at 35 degrees with the water temperature tipping just over the 20 mark so no worries if you took the odd swim. Skills had improved and we soon found our favourite set of play waves. Playtime for some!


Three more days of fun and merriment was enough for some and car by car people started to head off home. Some took a day to explore the neighbouring hills and villages by foot, some with bicycles went further afield…the beauty of the trip was that you could do as little or as much as you’d like, come and go as you please….it was a holiday after all!

Article written by Tommo 🙂


Dulverton Slalom 2017….Pete’s report

White water, rapids and adrenalin. It was all happening in March in the heart of Exmoor.


The third annual Canoe Slalom competition was held on Sunday 12 March on the River Barle at Dulverton. This town is a canoeing honey pot for lovers of moderate white water, with groups coming from all over the south of England and South Wales in the winter in pursuit of excitement and to enjoy the beauty of the valley.

Canoe/kayak slalom is a time trial competition, where competitors negotiate ‘gates’, which are coloured poles suspended above the water. Bideford   and Taunton Canoe Clubs jointly organised the event.  The aim was to awaken more local interest in Slalom, a sport in which Great Britain won gold and silver medals at the 2016 Olympics.

This competition had twenty two gates and was aimed at people relatively new to slalom. The stretch of water, locally known as the ‘Camel’s Hump’, is fast and channelled with rocks and eddies, making it a challenging experience for relative beginners. Course designer Doug Smith had set the course to make use of its natural features, with five of the gates taken upstream, using eddies  to help people turn into them.

On Saturday the course was open for practice and by lunchtime there had been nine swimmers in the chilly river. No injuries though, as the rescue crews were quick and efficient. In the afternoon there was a fun team event, where three paddlers tackle the course together. There were time handicaps for the strongest teams, so competition was fierce, though friendly! ‘Rag Tag and Bobtail’ won the event by just one second from KDS, with Doug/Martin/Kyle not far behind. A total of thirteen teams competed.

On Sunday there was an individual competition in several classes. Nearly eighty entries to the competition came from as far away as Salisbury and Monmouth, with ages ranging from 10 years to 78 years.

Event Organisers from Taunton CC, Leonie and Clive Merrifield, got the two days running smoothly, using two way radios and computer programmes to collate results. Leonie said,

‘This was our third and biggest slalom competition on this excellent site and we are indebted to the enthusiasm and efforts of all our club members and friends in making it happen. The pay back has been seeing the fantastic excitement among young people in achieving more than they thought possible’.

Prizes were presented by the landowner Mrs Frances Takel  together with Peter Romane from the Dulverton Weir and Leat Conservation Trust

Among the winners, Harvey Merryfield from Taunton CC, aged 15 years, beat all the adult competitors in the Open K1 (kayak single)competition and his brother Thomas, aged 13 years, came seventh in a strong field of fifteen.  Course designer Doug Smith from Bideford was a close second to Harvey with Ben Shattock of Taunton CC in third.

The brothers went on to beat their dad and his mate in the C2 doubles, where they kneel in the boat and use single paddles. The brothers must have a bright future and are an example to us all!


In the Ladies Open K1 event, Lena Kraus of Fowey came first, followed by Molly Knight of Wyedean CC with Katie Shattock of Taunton in third.

In K1 mens Division 3, another young talent  emerged in Felix Newey from  Wyedean CC, aged 13, winning the competition in a field of thirteen.


Second place was Jesse Davies from Stroud with Nathan Mower from Bideford in third.

In Women’s K1 Div 3, Sophia Stokes of Stroud Valley CC came first with Sennah Nader-Humphries of Croesyceiliog CC in second. Anya Fear of Taunton CC came third. In K1 Men Division 4, Pete Thorn was just ahead of Robin Harris from Taunton. Both were promoted to Division 3. In third place was Caleb Clode from Stroud Valley CC. In the K1 Women Division 4 Laura Hau from Seren Dwr came first and was promoted to Division 3. Brogan Swart from Croesyciliog came second and Jenni Denner from Poole Harbour CC came third.

In the Open C1 event, where people kneel and paddle with a single paddle, young Harvey beat his younger brother Tom, with club mate Kyle Spooner from Taunton in third. Some of the prizes were donated by Reed Chillcheater of Braunton.

For details of how to get afloat in this exciting sport, contact http://www.bidefordcanoeclub.co.uk/ or https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/

The full list of results is available at http://tauntoncanoeclub.org.uk/slalom/dulverton-slalom-2017/


Slalom Round-up…

Many many thanks to all those Club members who gave up their weekend to get cold, and sometimes wet, in aid of this massive event. Attendance was good, twice last year’s numbers, and most of them young people. Though the oldest was Avis, aged 78!

The course was excellent, thanks to our designer Doug Smith, who also provided a complete set of new smart poles. People took on unfamiliar jobs such as judging, which involves lots of concentration and getting numbingly cold. There were many jobs, most of which involved tramping up and down a muddy field. The whole team deserve great credit for sticking with it to the end. Lots of very complimentary comments from people as far away as Llandyssel, Winchester and the Isle of Wight. We gathered a few more new Club members.

Thanks also to our new best friends at Taunton CC. They sorted the complex Tutti system of communication and provided hot food and drink all weekend.

It was inspiring to see lots of young people on the course, really going for it. The winner of the Open competition was Harvey Merrifield, aged nearly 14. He skinned the field and is a future olympian. His brother Tom, two years younger, is close behind.

Other winners in different classes were our own Katherine Smith, and Nathan Mower, who was followed 0.6 second later by Dom Russell, In the Team event the Club gained second place out of 13 teams. Grey hair rules then.

Lots of pics and vids on our Facebook page. To all our photographers, please pick half a dozen great shots which we can use for publicity with local papers.

Again, thanks to all. A weekend to be proud of…


Paddle in Pembroke

The plan was to camp at Newgale (easy to find and opposite a surf beach) for a period straddling school and holiday time. It worked well with five of us till the weekend and then some left and others arrived. Eleven paddlers explored parts of this stellar coastline, at different times.

Pembroke 4

Day 1: Strong NW winds so we went to Stackpole Quay south of Pembroke town where the sea was relatively sheltered. Great cliff lines of limestone and sandstone with sandy beaches and caves. Lovely cafe and National Trust facilities. Just 9km going to Freshwater East and back to Stackpol Head

Day 2: More strong winds forecast so off to Saundersfoot for a longer coastal trip down and round Caldey Island. It was 22km and we could use our sails. Ian took a dim view of this unethical behaviour (but has since bought a sail). The tide turned at Caldey, the wind dropped and we romped back. Some good through caves at Tenby under St Katherine’s Island. Fish and chips on return. The only down side was my error of wading through mud in the harbour.

Pembroke 1Day 3: One of the most popular challenges of Pembroke is Ramsey Island and five set off at high tide from Porth Clais inlet. Crossing Ramsey Sound we could look north to see the waves of the Bitches tidal rapids and feel the pull of the tide towards them. Reaching Midland Gap we found the hidden passage through, which was a mess of tidal race and rebounding waves. Doug exuded adrenalin in surviving the run and we were happy to all be upright still. The Island has impressive cliffs and tidal races up the west side. We were soon round the island and having a break near the jetty, just below the Bitches. As the tide lessened we were able to get past these and return to Porth Clais, having completed 17km. Gianni’s ice cream shop was visited to celebrate. (This became a daily occurrence)

Day 4: With less wind we were able to take on Strumble Head, from Abercastle to Fishguard harbour. The trip is normally done the other way as the water always flows west along Strumble but the tides made the reverse trip the only daylight option. The sails gave us a welcome push, with Ian using Clive’s boat and sail. Clive missed out here due to a chest infection and sadly had to return home over the weekend. A fine paddle round a challenging headland, at 20km.

Pembroke 2Day 5: Mario and Doug headed home but Adam and Sally had arrived, plus, Mike, Stewart and partner. Ian, Adam and Pete planned to do the Bishops and Clerks circuit, perhaps the test piece of the region. This was 27km which passes south of Ramsey and out to South Bishop Lighthouse, ferry gliding across the tide. Then turning north the route negotiates some chunky tide races past the ‘Clerks’ and up to North Bishop island where we stopped for a break. Saw three puffins and surprised a mother seal which was singing tunefully to her pup, until she noticed us. We returned via the Bitches and this was designated ‘best day trip ever’. Meanwhile, Clive organised one of his intro easy paddles for Stewart and Mike, covering 20km together with climbing over the substantial pebble ridge!Day 6: Ian and Adam planned a circuit of Ramsey, completing 17km in one and a half hours (normal time scale is 3 hours) The rest of us did some local exploring from Porth Clais in a fresh wind and covered just 8km.

Day 7: There was a general exodus, leaving Pete and Stewart with newly arrived Sarah and Jess. We discovered the nearby port of Solva which is sheltered, has good water access at most stages of the tide plus a cafe and loos. We spent time on rescue techniques and leadership skills, having first advised the Coastguard we would be creating some ‘dramas’. Towing, recovery from rocky zawns and leading groups created quite a few laughs. Pete played the tame idiot. (Easy)

Day 8: Weather was more clement and tides were on neaps so a good day to do the 17km Ramsey circumnavigation. Flows were less and it was a nice cruisy day, with lunch on the west facing beach.

Day 9: On our last day we returned to Solva to work some more on rescue and self rescue. The paddle float was a revelation. We landed onto and launched from a rocky shore, practiced rolling and re-entry and roll. The ‘cowboy’ rescue proved too difficult for most but was entertaining as well as strenuous. We came away agreeing that more and regular practice is essential. More laughs to come then.

In all a great trip which advanced all our knowledge and experience. Where next year?